May 16, 2008
Astrodome lease in the works

We may finally have an agreement for what to do with the Astrodome.

Entrepreneurs seeking to reinvent the Astrodome as an upscale convention hotel have reached a proposed lease agreement with the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., county officials said today.

But before the deal can become a reality, the sports corporation will enter into what are expected to be thorny negotiations with the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo over whether the convention hotel would violate their rights.

"We expect that when the rodeo gets this, they will have questions, and there will be negotiating and compromising," said County Attorney Mike Stafford.

The proposed lease was expected months ago, but it took the sports corporation longer than expected to work out details because the county attorney's office has been reviewing it carefully, Stafford said.

The last update I have on this was February 20. I sometimes forget it's still out there, in need of some form of resolution. The last real news had to do with the quarrel between County Judge Ed Emmett and the rest of Commissioners Court over whether or not to give Astrodome Redevelopment more time to negotiate a lease. I'm not even sure what deadlines were still in effect, if any.

Commissioners Court will have final whether the convention hotel goes forward.

The court could decide to approve the deal without getting the Texans and the rodeo to sign off on it. But a top rodeo official has threatened to file a lawsuit if the rodeo believes that its rights are violated.

Whether the deal happens "depends on the will of Commissioners Court," Stafford said. "If their will is strong enough, I think this (proposal) will be carried out."

It's been six months since the Texans and the Rodeo first voiced their complaints. You'd think there could at least have been some back-room negotiations going on with them. I think in the end, this is likely to go forward regardless. But it would be nice if we could avoid another lawsuit.

The proposed 50-year lease calls for Astrodome Redevelopment to pay the county $2.5 million in rent, plus 2 percent of adjusted gross revenues annually. Astrodome Redevelopment has estimated the county could receive about $6 million annually from rent and its share of adjusted gross revenues.

The rent would rise 3 percent every fifth year. And the county would receive 3 percent of adjusted gross revenues annually starting the hotel's sixth year of operations.

I've said before that I'm basically okay with this concept. If some private company wants to spend its own money trying to make a successful go at a hotel/convention center from the Dome, I say knock yourselves out. This ought to relieve the County of its ongoing expenses with the Dome, and who knows, it might even work. As long as we won't be left holding the bag in the event it doesn't work, I see no harm in this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 16, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

In these days of bad mortgage loans of unknown financial impact, this smells fishy. Of course, Emmett's new secret code of ethics will protect us citizens from unscruplous County deals ensuring that we won't be left holding the bag before a deal is made.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on May 16, 2008 4:18 PM

take the roof off the stadium and make it into a soccer stadium for the dynamo.
simple and not too expensive.

Posted by: gonzalo camacho on May 16, 2008 9:18 PM