November 11, 2007
The Dome conundrum

Couple points of interest regarding this story about the quandary county officials find themselves in with the Astrodome Redevelopment/Texans and Rodeo dispute:

The court will wait until January before voting on whether to allow Astrodome Redevelopment Corp. to go forward with the convention hotel, said Commissioner Jerry Eversole.

The county owns Reliant Park and the various venues there, with the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. overseeing operations.

Texans owner Bob McNair and rodeo officials have said the proposal would compete with their operations. And they have called for the hotel to close on Texans' game days and during the 20 days of the rodeo.

"The rodeo and Mr. McNair are asking us to stop the process of examining this proposal," Eversole said Friday. "We can't do that. We couldn't face the public. We just can't say, 'We're going to do what's best for the rodeo or what's best for the Texans.' "


Knowing the public's feelings about the Dome, several Commissioners Court members said they hope the Texans and rodeo consider the current redevelopment plan more closely.

"I would urge the Texans, the Rodeo and Astrodome Redevelopment to sit down at the table and try to iron out their differences," Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said.

Commissioner El Franco Lee said the rodeo and the Texans adopted a tactic that appears intent on killing further dialogue.

"We pursued this (redevelopment) plan in the first place, because the public has a high interest in preservation," he said. "I would rather see the Texans and the rodeo make a good-faith effort toward what works and creating a revenue-generator at the Dome. That's the way to go, rather than for the Texans and the rodeo to make the presumption that it won't work and stonewall."

Seems pretty clear to me that the Commissioners Court is going to try to get the Texans and the Rodeo to the negotiating table so that a deal can be worked out. Whatever the merits of the Astrodome Redevelopment plan, it has the big plus of taking the Dome and its maintenance expenses off the Court's hands, not to mention letting them all claim that they helped save the beloved Dome. The Commissioners have got to be rooting for this to happen.

Whatever decision that members of Commissioners Court make, they are bound to infuriate someone.

And fallout from the vote could create problems for County Judge Ed Emmett, who faces opposition in the GOP primary for his job next year after being appointed to the post to replace Robert Eckels, said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein.

"For public officials, it's like being in a maze," Stein said. "You don't know which turn you make is going to help you. You have the rodeo and the Texans -- the stakeholders -- and then you have the public."


There's little public support for razing the Dome, Emmett said. He often takes show-of-hand surveys at speaking events to learn where the public stands on the facility. The public overwhelmingly wants the county to save and redevelop the venue that was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World when it opened, he said.

In a September poll of 400 county residents likely to vote in the March GOP primary, 67 percent said they favored the county's participation in a public-private partnership to redevelop the Dome. Of those polled, 16 percent favored razing the stadium, and 17 percent were undecided.

I wonder if it's ever occurred to Judge Emmett that he could follow up those show-of-hands polls to talk about the reality of the Dome's current situation, both in terms of its annual cost to the taxpayers, the obstacles it faces in order to be perserved as some other functional space, and what the county could do with the property if the Dome weren't there. In other words, he could use his position as County Judge to try and affect public opinion on the matter, so that he might not have to be so bound by it. I'm just saying.

Ideally, I too would like to see the Dome saved. But unlike certain other high-profile preservation targets, it doesn't currently serve a purpose. It can't survive on its own without a big infusion of capital. I hope that if the Dome Redevelopment folks have a plan for that capital that makes sense that they be allowed to go forward with it, but if that doesn't happen, we all need to be prepared for other outcomes. That includes Commissioners Court.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 11, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

apparently the rodeo folks have a better solution

Posted by: Charles Hixon on November 11, 2007 11:21 PM