A Guilty Plea from the Man Who Kept the Astrodome Empty

Real estate developer Michael Surface, who as chairman of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. was in charge of deciding the Astrodome’s future for the first 8 years of its life as an empty sports venue, pled guilty this morning to filing a false tax statement and making a false statement to federal agents. As part of a plea agreement connected to corruption charges filed against him and Harris County commissioner Jerry Eversole, Surface will likely receive a sentence of less than 5 years in prison capped by less than 3 years’ supervised release and a fine of less than $250,000.


Surface’s tenure as the Astrodome’s steward should be noted for the curiously constructed “competition” he devised to select a company to redevelop the abandoned landmark, followed by a 4-year period that gave the “winner” — which, under Surface’s influence, kept changing its proposalexclusive rights to negotiate a deal. At the end of 2007, Surface was canned from his job, but his legacy is intact. The still-vacant and rotting Astrodome he left behind still remains — a tribute to his vision.

Photo: James Harrison

13 Comment

  • Implode the God damned thing already.

  • Nice evocative photo by James Harrison.
    I’d still like to see the ‘dome left to Nature; a sort of anti-monument.
    It would be an awesome school fild-trip destination and it’s disintegration would make a cool time-lapse movie.

  • FIELD trip.
    (If fact, don’t we all need more field trips?)

  • I don’t think the subject of the article was really the Astrodome.

  • Trey–Yep. It’s about how the cozy relationship between developers and government in the Houston area slides into corruption. It’s a story that has been going on for decades here–Surface/Eversole is just the latest chapter of a very old story.

  • @ Robert Boyd: Corruption is nothing unique to Houston. We probably have less of it on the whole, due to less regulatory influence on the private sector.

  • I don’t think the subject of the article was really the “benefits” of a lack of legal standards.

  • Government owning entertainment centers is an invitation to corruption. It’s not a legitimate function of government.

    But we’re doing it all over again with Dynamo Stadium.

  • @the niche: WTF? Do you have even a shred of evidence to back that “theory” up?

  • “We probably have less of it on the whole, due to less regulatory influence on the private sector”

    Niche is absolutely right! By allowing private entities to screw us over legally rather than forcing them to surreptitiously circumvent pesky regulation we are guaranteeing less illegal corruption. Of course we are still be screwed but you can’t win them all.

  • Hey mies – remember Ben Reyes? City Councilman? Nice suit, cowboy boots, fat bag full of a cash bribe – all caught on the Fed’s video tape. That should be enough evidence to back the theory. Lots of “Bens” still out there.

  • “TheNiche: … due to less regulatory influence on the private sector.”
    whaa? Try buying an apt building inside the loop. There is enough ‘regulatory influence’ on mulitfamily owners that I don’t know why the COH doesn’t just buy/run their own apt buildings.

  • Corruption in Houston: nothing new.I agree with Justin DEMOLISH the relic ASAP. Another revenue drain. Then redevelop the land.