Thursday, November 01, 2007

A backup plan for the Astrodome

Most of you probably caught the story yesterday about the Texans and Rodeo coming out against the Astrodome redevelopment plan into a convention mega-hotel. The key problem is that they have veto power, so I'm sure they strung the whole process along as far as they could to maximize their negotiating leverage, waiting until ARC had sunk a lot of money and time into a plan and getting financing. I've questioned the economics of this thing before, and I'm sure whatever the Texans and Rodeo demanded made the deal even more untenable. At this juncture, there seem to be only three possible ways the deal will get done:
  1. ARC finds a way to throw enough money at them they drop their opposition
  2. Public outrage at the "Astrodome wreckers" worries the Texans/Rodeo enough that they back down, fearing a collapse in fan/customer support (the Rodeo seems particularly susceptible to this)
  3. Behind the scenes arm-twisting by city and county power brokers, esp. on the Rodeo board of directors
Since it seems to be the way things are typically done in Houston, #3 seems the most likely, maybe with a little #1 and a threat of #2 thrown in.

The Astrodome is clearly a historic structure. It even has its own MySpace page with a great chronology of that history. The problem is, people seem to think it's either this hotel or the wrecking ball, and I don't believe that to be true. I've articulated my low-cost, low-risk plan before as a climate-controlled weekend festival dome, along with an array of speakers and classes. It would cost very little, and almost certainly bring it more than enough money from parking alone to cover the annual maintenance cost. Even if it's only an interim strategy until a mega-makeover deal can be put together, it's a heck of a lot better option than tearing it down. Please, if you know any of the decision-makers involved (like the County Commissioners), please pass this post along. Thanks.

Update: Alison Cook at the Chronicle suggests a food market inside the Astrodome modeled on the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

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At 9:24 PM, November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, I like #2. For starters, it is the truth. Both the Texans and the Rodeo want that "eyesore" called the Astrodome gone, despite what their public position may be.

I already dumped my season tickets, so my threat to the texans has lost some clout, but I can blow off the Rodeo, too. In fact, I believe my boycott just started today. Seems only money talks to these two groups, and mine is staying in my pocket.

At 1:52 PM, November 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking garage. Plain and simple.

To me, charging $10-$20 so that people don't have to park-n-ride to get to Texans games and the Rodeo is the easy money maker.

At 1:57 PM, November 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think people want to have festivals inside a dome. That's just a depressing environment. A festival should be on a street.

At 2:35 PM, November 05, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Neighborhoods tend to hate street festivals: noise, parking gridlock, vandalism, and trash everywhere.

On top of that, the weather is not conducive to street festivals in Houston outside of a couple months every spring and fall (and even then they usually face rain risk). The street festivals we have should definitely stay, but we could have a whole lot more at other times of the year.

Imagine hanging out in the stands with your laptop and wireless access (plus maybe food and/or coffee), while people watching below and listening to live music, then heading down to the floor from time to time to browse or watch specific events up close. With that setup, you could stay at a festival all day - something exhaustion usually prevents at typical festivals.

At 6:44 PM, November 05, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

In general, I agree with Mike - a "street festival" in the dome is pretty lame. However, I think that having a section of the art car parade or some additional "taste of Houston" type events in the middle of July would give us some additional entertainment options. Live music, as Tory suggests, would be good if you only have 1-2 stages, but I can't see us having an ACL type event in the dome. But, overall, I can't really think of a reason why these events would necessarily be at the dome versus say George R Brown or Reliant hall.

And I think there are 2 major hurdles with this approach:

1) Nobody wants to be the first group to sign up to use the dome for their event. The art car parade already has their set up, and we already have an Italian, Greek festival, etc. These events seem content with their existing venues.

2) Somebody is going to have to put up some capital to make the dome a bit nicer for festivals, let in some more natural light, etc. I'm not sure if I see the city wanting to put a whole lot of money into this without some big-time, annual events that want to use the space.


At 7:15 PM, November 05, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

The Houston International Festival organization was part of the original proposal, so they've shown a willingness to fix the place up and schedule festivals, although their signature annual festival would stay downtown. The key would be a nonprofit group that would raise money and invest in the place over time, while coordinating events.

At 9:44 AM, November 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can't picture festival goers wanting to park on acres of concrete, walk through ramps and turnstiles, and then sit under a gloomy dome in a completely artificial environment with tens of thousands of empty seats above them. That's depressing.

For those months when the weather is less than ideal, I think the optimum setting for an event of this type is the George R. Brown/Discovery Green. Discovery Green will give it some liveliness and sense of place, while the George R. Brown offers an indoor retreat and insurance against the rain risk.

At 12:29 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I like Tory's giant community center idea in principle, but I thought that the Dome setting for the Art Car Ball a few years ago was, in fact, pretty lame.

I think there are many uses, including Tory's, that could cover the Dome's maintenance costs, but you'd have to be starting from the premise that tearing the Dome down was simply not an option. I think the relevant officials in this case are starting with exactly the opposite premise. No doubt we will soon hear dark warnings about parks and libraries and constable stations that must be closed unless we get on with it...

This does make for a particularly transparent historical preservation situation, though. There is no private owner to stick with the costs here. If we want to preserve the Dome, we have no choice but to put up the cash and/or opportunity cost.


At 1:39 AM, September 05, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi the best thing to do with the stadium is a longshot but the city will generate millions officers will get o.t. a casino now that galvenston passed laws houston and harris county can make a statement and build a garage on the reliant facility i work for aramark at reliant park we need the work please do something with it


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