July 18, 2006
The Astrodome Hotel exit ramp

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.

I can't quite picture where they want this ramp to be and to go. There's already an exit both ways for Fannin/Greenbriar, and for Kirby. Maybe they want to add some kind of flyover to the existing ramps (westbound at Fannin, eastbound at Kirby) to take people directly to the Dome Hotel parking lot, bypassing the intersections at Fannin and Kirby? Heck if I know. I want to see a diagram for this puppy.

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.

Now they just have to find someone to put up the dough. I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall for some of their presentations, just to see how they sell the concept.

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."

Since I blogged about the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, I've had the chance to stay at a Gaylord resort myself, in Orlando. I can now see how it would work - basically, the hotel itself is built with a huge enclosed atrium in the middle and all the rooms around it, with the convention center attached on one side. The Dome structure would serve very nicely as the atrium. It really is an enclosed little world, with food, shopping, and entertainment all contained within. That also answers my qualms about the crappy location. Who cares if there's nothing to do near the Dome if all your needs are met inside it? I still have some concerns about its viability, but that has more to do with the general nature of the convention center business and not this particular project. At this point, I'll wait to see what the moneybags folks think of it all.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 18, 2006 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Wonder how it is that these guys think they can attract investors? This is a pie in the sky idea if I ever saw one. I guess maybe I just don't understand high finance.

Posted by: Dennis on July 18, 2006 3:44 PM

I think an underground ramp leading right into the parking lot which u didnt metion is actually a garage that surronds 2/3 of the Astrodome. At least thats wat the Texans and HL&R are forcing them to do. An underground ramp like they have at Lakewodd church (formerly known as Compaq center).

Posted by: Daegan on July 20, 2006 4:48 PM

i have a question what r they doing with the astrodome knocking it down or building a hotel

Posted by: Jc on October 20, 2006 7:07 PM