"From day one, we have always known that it is an option to do this as a publicly developed program," said Mike Surface, chairman of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., which manages Reliant Park. "If I'm looking out for Reliant Park's interests, I would say, 'County, you should think about doing this.' "
No property taxes would go toward the project in any case, he said.
If the county paid for part or all of the project, it would use hotel and sales taxes generated by the hotel complex and other Reliant Park revenue, such as concessions.
Which doesn't make it a bad idea, mind you. If what Mike Surface means is that the county (and by extension Reliant) would get some guaranteed rate of return by investing in this project, then I can see the link. But if the redevelopment folks can't get private financing, are we sure this is a winner? I'm perfectly happy to give them a shot at this, and I'm fine with the county cutting them some slack to get their ducks lined up. Putting county money in, at least without some tight controls, is where I'm drawing the lines.
It's a fair question to ask, by the way, what those Reliant revenues would have been used for otherwise. There are lots of questions that would need to be answered.
Surface said he and some other board members are so confident in the project that the board may look for another developer to step in if Astrodome Redevelopment's effort fails.
The county is looking to invest as little as possible in the project. Astrodome Redevelopment could turn out to need $20 million to $50 million to obtain a loan, Surface said.
But a feasibility study concluded the hotel will be profitable, and the county would be wise to invest in the project to make it happen, he said.
County Commissioner Steve Radack has said, however, that he does not think the project makes sense and will oppose any county participation.