Looks like we may have finally settled the what-to-do-with-the-Astrodome question: The company which is seeking to redevelop the Dome now has a plan to turn it into a hotel/entertainment center.
The new plan still calls for some rides, possibly even of the space variety, other entertainment, restaurants, a cineplex and retail stores.
But much of the area would be taken up by as many as 1,000 hotel rooms that would serve, in part, those attending conventions at nearby Reliant Center, said Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp.
"Part of our interest in this concept would be to increase the use of Reliant Center," he said Wednesday. "That would not be at the expense of the George R. Brown (Convention Center). We're trying to attract business to Houston that doesn't come here now."
If the plan becomes a reality, Houston, which never had a convention hotel until the Hilton Americas opened next to the George R. Brown late last year, would have two as early as 2008.
I'm glad to see that the county commissioners are also skeptical of this project.
Harris County could help pay for a $400 million convention hotel-entertainment complex in Reliant Astrodome with taxes generated by the facility, County Judge Robert Eckels said Thursday.
Eckels and two other commissioners said they would oppose raising taxes on residents and businesses to pay for converting the "Eighth Wonder of the World" into a convention hotel-entertainment complex.
The local portion of the hotel taxes from the hotel, Eckels said, would not be enough to pay for a $400 million project.
"It will take substantial private investment," he said.
The hotel "would be a real plus for the (Reliant Park) complex, but also for the community," he said.
Scott Hanson, president of Astrodome Redevelopment, may ask the county to use the local portion of hotel taxes generated by the complex to help pay for the project.
It does not plan on asking the county to tap other tax revenues, he said.
"We are looking at private sources as much as we possibly can," he said. "We are not looking to strap the county with additional debt. Our source of financing is coming through traditional means."
Commissioner Jerry Eversole said he opposes levying additional taxes on residents to pay for the project.
"If this outside party does the redevelopment, I wouldn't expect the county to put into this," he said.
"I am not interested in spending a helluva lot more county money right now."
Commissioner Steve Radack wondered whether there would be a market for a convention center hotel since the Hilton Americas opened late last year.
"I would find it hard to believe that you could have high occupancy of another hotel of that magnitude," he said.
The county still owes more than $50 million on bonds issued to pay for renovations at the Astrodome in the 1980s, said Edwin Harrison, Harris County director of financial services.
They will be paid off in 2012.