Texans, Rodeo back off Dome hotel opposition

The most significant obstacle to any kind of Astrodome hotel plan was opposition from the Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It now looks like that opposition has softened somewhat.

“We will be pleased to work with the (Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., Astrodome Redevelopment Co. and the rodeo) in an effort to finalize agreements that protect the rights of all parties and allow for the successful redevelopment of the Reliant Astrodome,” wrote Texans president Jamey Rootes in an Aug. 1 letter to the county attorney’s office.

Opposition from the rodeo has been even more fierce until now. But on Tuesday, Leroy Shafer, the rodeo’s chief operating officer, said, “Last time, we were looking at a business proposal that violated our rights all over the place. Now, a lease is being developed to protect our rights.”

Even if the Texans and the rodeo drop opposition to the project, Astrodome Redevelopment Co. still needs to obtain financing for the ambitious, $450 million effort to transform the building once known as the Eighth Wonder of the World into a convention hotel.

Astrodome Redevelopment president Scott Hanson said the company’s efforts to obtain financing have been hampered by an inability to strike a lease with the sports corporation, which oversees Reliant Park operations, including the Astrodome.

“The (commercial lending) market is much tougher now. Quite frankly, we have been waiting on getting an approved lease before we go back out into the marketplace,” he said.

The last update I had on this was from May, when Astrodome Redevelopment and the Sports Authority reached a proposed lease agreement.

The Texans and the rodeo previously opposed the 1,300-room, upscale hotel, saying it would siphon off revenue and possibly violate their deals with the sports corporation on naming rights and concessions.

In their reviews of the lease, the rodeo and Texans said they continue to have concerns about naming rights, ambush marketing and violations of concession contracts, but are willing to negotiate with the county attorney’s office on these issues.

The rodeo and Texans also wish to review where Astrodome Redevelopment would build a bridge from the Loop 610 frontage road to the hotel, a skywalk from the hotel to Reliant Center convention hall and a walkway from the Metro light rail stop on Fannin to the hotel.

Depending on where such additions went, they could interfere with rodeo operations and violate the rodeo’s lease with the sports corporation, Shafer said.

It doesn’t sound like anything concrete has been done to address the Texans’ and Rodeo’s qualms, but it does sound like they’re willing to at least come to the table and discuss possible solutions. I’m not sure if this is the result of arm-twisting, or of them gaining faith in the Dome Redevelopment folks, but it’s a big deal either way. I don’t see any theoretical reason why this can’t be worked out, so I suppose it’s just a matter of how much the players are willing to bend, and on what. Given the pace of this saga, I figure we’ll hear a new update around the end of the year.

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