The Texans and Houston rodeo officials came out today in opposition of plans to turn the iconic Reliant Astrodome into an upscale hotel and convention center saying the proposal could jeopardize their own organizations.
“The proposed redevelopment poses serious operational hurdles, threatens each organization’s financial well-being, and violates their lease agreement rights with Harris County,” the organizations said today in a written statement.
The Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation has proposed turning the dome into a convention hotel that would employ 1,550 and generate nearly $23 million a year in state and local taxes. The corporation hasn’t revealed details of its plans to finance the $450 million renovation.
The complex would have as many as 1,300 hotel rooms, ballrooms, convention meeting rooms, multiple restaurants, upscale shopping and one or more music venues. Swaths of Astroturf would be replaced with a series of ponds, fountains and tall trees.
A parking garage would be built around the Dome. Plans for a cineplex have been scrapped.
But in opposing that plan today, the Rodeo said the plan would have a “negative impact on the Rodeo’s future success, including its many youth and educational program.”
If anything is going to kill this remarkably durable scheme, it’ll be the Texans/Rodeo combination. We could finally be on the verge of the last days of the Dome. This is a very early version of the story – there will be more later, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: The updated version of the story has the bad news for Astrodome Redevelopment:
“Not until we saw their plans recently did we realize that this project has the ability to cannibalize our operations,” said Leroy Shafer, the rodeo’s chief operating officer. “Every dollar spent that is spent there is one that might not be spent at the rodeo.”
Jamey Rootes, a Texans’ official, said the Texans were worried that the hotel would hamper the flow of fans in and out of games on the Texans’ 10 game days.
Astrodome Redevelopment announced in early September that it had cleared a major hurdle by gaining preliminary approval from Deutsche Bank, a major commercial lender, to finance the deal.
In addition, the Texas Historical Commission approved the company’s renovation plans, qualifying it for a federal historic rehabilitation tax credit.
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, John Clanton, the firm’s chief executive, has said.
Shafer said restaurants that pay to operate at the rodeo could stop leasing if business was siphoned off by the hotel’s food court.
And Shafer said he was concerned that the hotel would decrease the value of exclusivity rights at the rodeo. Coca-Cola, for instance, buys the right to sell its products exclusively at the rodeo.
“It became obvious to us that a tremendous amount of our revenue will be lost at our show,” he said.
I know they’re saying that they’ve just seen Astrodome Redevelopment’s plans recently, but it still seems to me like they might have seen this coming. Be that as it may, I don’t see how the plan survives. So the question then becomes, what now with the Dome? Tear it down (and replace it with what?), find a funding source and turn it into a historic monument, or pursue some other redevelopment scheme? Let me know what you think.