Another step in the Astrodome Hotel saga, as the developers are asking for a new exit ramp from Loop 610 to their location, in order to avoid Reliant/rodeo traffic.
Astrodome Redevelopment Corp., a consortium proposing the development, favors building a ramp from the Loop 610 feeder road to the Dome.
But Texans officials so far have balked at the proposed ramp, saying they have "aesthetic concerns" about its effect on the appearance of Reliant Park, county-hired consultants said in a report.
"I really believe we will be able to resolve all these issues," said Scott Hanson, president of Astrodome Redevelopment.
A ramp would cost $5 million to $10 million, while the alternate proposal, a tunnel from the Loop feeder road, likely would cost $10 million to $15 million, Hanson said.
Whatever the case, and there are some questions by the Reliant and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo folks, who have a considerable amount of stroke over what goes on at the complex, there's progress being made in turning the Dome Hotel into a reality.
The Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., the county entity that oversees Reliant Park, and Astrodome Redevelopment are expected Wednesday to sign an agreement, called a letter of intent, that spells out each side's willingness to move forward with the project.
It is expected to say that the county is giving Astrodome Redevelopment six months to obtain financing and seven months to reach pacts on issues including parking, the hotel's ramp or tunnel entrance and profit-sharing.
Astrodome Redevelopment needs the letter to obtain financing. It will be given a year from the time the letter of intent is signed to reach a lease agreement with the Sports and Convention Corp.
The letter of intent "will be a major, major milestone," said Willie Loston, director of the Sports & Convention Corp.
The hotel would be modeled on Gaylord convention hotels in Grapevine, Nashville, Tenn., and Orlando, Fla. Senate Hospitality, a Nashville-based company that includes former Gaylord executives, would operate the Dome hotel. Gaylord hotels cater to groups that want hotels, restaurants, meeting rooms and convention halls under one roof.
Houston already has a convention hotel, the city-owned Hilton Americas next to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Unlike the Hilton Americas, the Dome hotel would imitate the Gaylord concept and try to attract groups looking for a self-contained facility.
"Prior to seeing the Gaylord Texan (in Grapevine), I thought it was a dumb idea," [HLS&R Chief Operating Officer Leroy] Shafer said. "After we visited the Gaylord Texan, we began to see it is a different model. But personally, I still have concerns that it will work."