Time for another Astrodome redevelopment update.
Entrepreneurs looking to turn the iconic Astrodome into an upscale convention hotel have scrapped a "best of historic Texas" theme for a more modern, streamlined look.
A faux Texas courthouse and other features that played on the state's past are out. Plans now call for including a section of the Dome's seats, part of the diamond and an overall contemporary design that plays up the building's cutting-edge nature when it opened in 1965.
"We're going to have rides. There could be air rides that take you off the ground and make you say, 'Wow,' " said Scott Hanson, president of Astrodome Redevelopment Co., the firm hoping to transform the Dome. "We're going to have a few of those. They would be easy-going rides that would show off the venue."
The Texas Historical Commission recently approved the company's renovation plans, qualifying it for a federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, [Astrodome Redevelopment chief executive John] Clanton said.
The tax credit was integral to Astrodome Redevelopment's financing application. As much as $350 million of the work on the $450 million project may qualify for the tax credit, which could be worth $70 million to Astrodome Redevelopment, Clanton said.
Astrodome Redevelopment had good reason to scrap the best of Texas theme. The historical commission may not have approved its rehabilitation plan, and the company may not have received the tax credit, Clanton said.
The commission wanted the project to include some features of the building and to play up the Dome's status when it was dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" upon its opening.
Astrodome Redevelopment still has hurdles to clear before it begins work. Willie Loston, director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., which oversees Reliant Park, will update the Commissioners Court on the company's progress in executive session Tuesday.
The court's approval is needed before work could begin. And Astrodome Redevelopment needs to work out revenue sharing and parking deals with the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the major tenants of Reliant Park.
But Hanson and Astrodome Redevelopment's chief executive, John Clanton, said the company is making progress and hopes to begin work on the interior as early as next April.
A parking garage would be built around the Dome. County officials may require Astrodome Redevelopment to build a $15 million overhead ramp from the South Loop to the garage. Plans for a cineplex have been scrapped.
Astrodome Redevelopment isn't seeking any public money to renovate the Dome, but has asked the county to consider paying for the $15 million ramp and an expansion of Reliant Park's air conditioning/heating plant, which could cost as much as $1 million, Hanson said.
Loston said, "We have not responded to that request. But this is a 100 percent privately financed project."