April 01, 2007
One last hope for the Astrodome Hotel

So the Astrodome Redevelopment folks didn't get financing by the March deadline. There's always the county to turn to for help.

"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.

I guess it's not exactly clear to me how an Astrodome Hotel benefits Reliant Park. Will that help sell more tickets to events at the stadium and/or Reliant Arena? Will it bring more events there in the first place? Tom had mentioned using the space currently occupied by the Dome as extra parking for Reliant. Whether you think that's a good idea or not, at least it's easy to see how it affects Reliant. It's not at all easy to see how the Dome Hotel does.

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.

Color me skeptical here. Maybe a different crew would get different results, but I'm thinking that if these guys fail, it's not a management issue but a lack of faith in the project's feasibility. I'd rather see the Dome get reused than removed, but let's not lose sight of what's doable.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 01, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

The lenders mokusatsu it.

Since the Chronic played a significant role in rendering the Astrodome surplus, it has a civic responsibility for a successful conclusion to the question.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 2, 2007 12:39 PM