Monday, June 18, 2012

A better plan to save the Astrodome

Setting aside my own wishes for the Astrodome, and just looking at the plan recently presented by the HCSCC to Commissioners Court, there is a very simple fix that will make saving the Astrodome *much* more likely.

Current Plan
  • $270m to convert Astrodome into multi-purpose venue
  • $385m to demolish and rebuild a new Astrohall/Reliant Arena
Net cost estimated to be $523m after tax credits.

MAJOR PROBLEM = getting voters to approve a half-billion dollar bond issue (!)

Better Plan

Tear down an obsolete Reliant Arena and fold whatever functions a new one would have into a renovated Astrodome.  It's not like the Astrodome doesn't have enough space.  Heck, it could probably do just about everything they wanted to do in it originally and still have room for everything they want to do in a new Arena.  We lose a building nobody cares about and preserve a building everybody wants to save at probably less than half the price of the current proposal (something voters might actually approve).  

A big win-win, yes?  If you agree, please contact your County Commissioner asap and let them know.  They're meeting to make some decisions on this plan very soon - possibly this week.



At 3:14 PM, June 19, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I emailed Commissioner Cagle's office today. He forwarded my email to Willie Loston (executive director of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation). I was pretty suprised that it reached that level in so little time.

However, this was the response (after taking out the salutations and my name):
"We have a dilemma Mr.... Both the Astrodome and Reliant Arena are deteriorating and therefore need to be addressed. Your recommendation to re-purpose the Astrodome to include the features of a replacement for Reliant Arena was originally evaluated in 2009 and again within the last thirty days. We have found that such a re-purposing would not meet the needs of a replacement venue for Reliant Arena, and the cost of this less than adequate replacement would be within seventy five to eighty percent of the cost of rehabilitating the Astrodome and constructing the Arena Replacement Project. Consequently we are not recommending that this option be pursued."

So there you have it. Not the answer I (or you) were looking for. I would still like to see the evaluations so that we can learn why the dome would be less than adequate. Maybe you can shed some light on this.

At 3:56 PM, June 19, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks for posting the feedback. I'm skeptical, and would certainly like to see the details.

At 4:30 PM, June 20, 2012, Anonymous Mike said...

I sense the Rodeo in this. They do not want a suboptimal space to replace their AstroArena operations (why they need a venue more expensive than Minute Maid Park for some lasso shows is a different question). They would also love to have the parking capability that a bunch of flat, gleaming white concrete in front of Reliant Hall would provide.

Tory, I hope you keep hollering the museum idea. Museums don't produce the visceral excitement that plans costing hundreds of millions of dollars usually need, but they give a city more long-term value than any of the ideas that have been floated. Especially science and industry museums. Until now people have basically been trying to make the dome into the Gaylord Texan, and I think it would be much more worthwhile to make it into Air & Space Museum South. But the idea won't take hold easily.

At 4:54 PM, June 20, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks, Mike. Support very much appreciated. It's hard to get traction though without a big $ champion.

At 6:09 AM, June 21, 2012, Anonymous Mike said...

I wonder if George Mitchell would be interested in something like this. He did a lot with the physics buildings at A&M.

At 8:18 AM, June 21, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

We've reached out to him, but have been told he can't take on any new projects.

At 3:34 PM, June 22, 2012, Blogger n2mars said...

Tory, thank you for this post. There may indeed be a good rationale for choosing the two-facility option, but your point about not having access to the details of the research is well put. I have concerns about the proposed design solutions for other parts of the plan, including where structures are placed on the site and above-ground vs. below-ground garages. I don't think any of us claims to know the outcome of the thoughtful consideration we seek from the County; we certainly can't pull any levers of power except as just plain folks. But I think people who have sstrong opinions and some good arguments ought to speak up.

At 11:43 PM, June 28, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In terms of the Astrodome, it might be better to convert it into a Houston Horsetrack Stadium - it would generate millions, in time, billions. The best thing is it could be done with just minimal conversion to the pre-existing structure. Just clean it up, put in some ticket boxes (and beer/ wine vendors owned by the stadium), some beach sand mix on the indoor track (to keep dust from flying up) and that's about it. You could even have solar panels on the roof for air conditioning, lights, to keep it "green". If the developer on the other hand really wants to modify the structure, in my opinion it might be better and easier to put the rooms on the outside, wrap a hotel around it (with cheap rooms like Vegas), the horsetrack in the center.


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