Commissioners Decide To Let Voters Decide on Convention Center Plan

COMMISSIONERS DECIDE TO LET VOTERS DECIDE ON CONVENTION CENTER PLAN You’ll get your chance at the ballot box this November to decide whether to approve a bond that would pay for the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp.’s $217 million plan to clean up and slim down the Astrodome into a convention center. The Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier reports that the County Commissioners finally approved the bond order this morning — along with a few other items of business, including spending “$8 million for asbestos abatement, selective demolition and other work county staff says needs to be done on the vacant stadium whether it is revamped or torn down. That includes allowing the county purchasing agent to inventory and sell Dome-related ‘sports memorabilia,’ including signs.” If passed, adds Collier, the bond would raise property taxes by about $8. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: HCSCC

46 Comment

  • Dont we already have a fairly new convention center downtown that is underutilized?

  • Would a new convention center draw something other than the gun shows and quilt conventions that seem to account for most of GRB’s business?

  • I recently added the Dictionary of Numbers extension to Chrome, which puts parenthetical equivalents beside otherwise contextless large numbers.

    $217 million is approximately the typical endowment of a research university.

  • I’ll keep voting NO until they’ll run out of any other choices but to demolish it.

  • I need more info. What is the cost to tear it down? Will the convention center actually make money? If so, what is a conservative estimate on how much? Essentially, 10 years from now looking back, what would be the cheapest option? Lastly, what happens if Houston votes ‘no’? ie what is plan b?

  • I will vote “no” on the principal that they disallowed all other alternatives that didn’t include full private funding, in order to advance their own concept on the public’s dime. I don’t care of it was the being redesigned into the Temple of Free Pizza, hypocrisy and “old boys’ club” decision making are not getting my approval.

  • VOTE HELL YES! YES! YES! $8 to save Houston only iconic structure is a bargain. Cheap skates be damned to cheap hell.

  • @Spoonman, thanks for the context, it brings up a good point as to what $217M really buys us. Now to find that Chrome extension and input the collective Harris County Commissioners annual operating budget to see how our money could be better spent.

  • Astrodome couldn’t make it without first floor retail

  • I will support this just to keep from seeing it demolished. If it is demolished, in 5-10 years, the Texans will claim that Reliant Stadium needs to be replaced with a 7 billion stadium with jumbotron TVs on the back of every seat. If the Astrodome is still there, they won’t have space to do it. If the Astrodome is gone, they will and will threaten to take the team to Chattanooga if Houstonians don’t pony up the cash.

  • How about the city use monies from the drainage fee (TAX) to fund the Astrodome renovation. I’m all for the plan, but not at tax payer expense. I’m voting no. Too bad the language on the ballot will not directly state the cost increases to property taxes as Collier states in the article. Unfortunately, greater than 50% of the public consists of low information voters and psychology 101 will tell you people would rather say Yes than No. This will easily pass.

  • @benny – what better way to market that $10 parking? The whole dome is already surrounded by it.

  • And $4 million could go to save Deer Park Prairie. Not only saving the eight wonder of the world, but saving 50 acres of the little native habitat left.

    Also if there are 4.1 million in the county that comes out to $53 per person.

  • I think we should build 25 brand new convention centers, one with a space shuttle, another in the astrodome, one in the shape of Charles Barkley, one with a terrible (rebuilding) baseball team, etc. We will become the Convention (center) Capital of the World!

  • It doesn’t divide out that way, Zero. The county sells bonds for $217 million and then pays for those bonds over a period of decades, with some interest. Property taxes are raised to buy back the bonds over time. In this case, about $8 per person (average) per year.

  • I’d rather have the $8 than the Astrodome. That’s how important the Astrodome is to me.

  • Don’t they mean it will raise everyone’s property tax by $8 THIS YEAR? I’m guessing these are going to be 30-year bonds, so it’s really $8 a year in perpetuity.

  • Without the Astrodome we won’t be a world class city.

  • The article says it will increase the average property tax bill by $8 per year but doesn’t say how many years it will take to pay off $217M. Since when are bonds paid off with property taxes?

  • Yes…because a vote of no is likely a vote for demolition. Something is better than nothing.

  • “$217 million is approximately the typical endowment of a research university.”

    Not a very good one. UT and A&M share an endowment that was $17 billion last time I checked, to put it in perspective.

  • he double hockey stick NO

    the only plan these guys have is to blow money, absolutely nothing beyond that. pitiful.

  • Whatever happened to all those other proposals? Seems like this was their plan all along to push their own convention center idea while, as others have mentioned, we already have a perfectly good (and underused) one Downtown. Why don’t we let the public vote on the proposals, pick our own alternative to demolishing it, then have a final vote on whether to go with that plan or tear it down.

  • It’s interesting that a town which doesn’t care a whit about actual historic preservation seems so unable to bring itself to tear down the one structure which seems most obviously in need of being torn down.

    The Astrodome’s time passed the day they decided to built a new stadium in its parking lot. That pretty much defines redundancy.

    The idea of turning it into a convention center, given the total lack of hotel space, restaurants, bars, nightlife, activities, or anything else that conventioneers would want makes no sense.

  • I’ll vote no because it was their own plan thats been spoofed to be in “our” best interests. I agree with Grant but it doesnt work that way. Let us decide on 1 of 3 solutions.
    Voter Apathy/uneducation will pass this thing with flying colors.

  • Kicking the proverbial can down the street –

  • *ill vote yes, and unlike most on here I’ll actually vote

  • So $8 over 30 years comes out to be about $240. Um, hell no!

    I like the dome, but heck striping it down and turning it into an art installation/park would be far cheaper and a better use than building a convention center that is unneeded and likely will not be able to pay for its own maintenance costs.

  • With a nod to Shannon’s astute observation, I would vote yes if I were planning to vote. (I’m not.)

    A protest vote does nothing to rectify bad governance. Make the best of your crappy situation and keep the damned dome.

  • This whole Dome debate is more than a just a property tax issue that people want to paint it as. If you really distilled it down to a single point, well then I guess it is. However, it incorporates debates on size of government, government accountability / effectiveness, a city identity crisis, preservation, nostalgia, optimism vs pessimism, and cronyism. One could actually make the argument that in this one issue, we’re trying to figure out what it is to be a ‘Houstonian’, what the future of Houston is going to be, and if it’s worth saving our past. This has been so fascinating to me because of all these issues are being hashed out whether consciously or unconsciously. This whole saga is definitely worth writing a book over. I guess we get to decide how that book ends (or continues?) in Novmeber.

  • @ismdavid1—I graduated Plan II from UT-Austin and I vote in every election and I will vote yes on the Dome reinvention–I have researched the issue thoroughly and care deeply about the future of the Astrodome–how exactly am I “apathetic” and “uneducated”–I seem run counter to your hypothesis–hmmmm

  • Why am I envisioning County Judge Ed Emmett being Emperor Palpatine?
    “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen”

  • The real question is will it REALLY only cost us $217 million in the end? Or will it get stretched to $300 million. Then it gets under-utilized and cost us more each year. Then one day we really do have to tear it down and what is the cost of that?

  • This has a No for me. I’d rather see historic neighborhoods preserved, not some convention center, that’s next to another convention center, in the middle of $10/space parking lots.

    Lets preserve something meaningful, with more reason for public access than the previously mentioned gun and quilt shows.

    Tear it down. Move on. There’s better uses for my $.

  • I think y’all get caught up in the word “convention” space and automatically think gun and boat shows. This proposed space is brilliantly more multipurpose than your run of the mill convention center. What other convention center is capable of having an Indy Car race track routed through it? What other convention center would allow a full carnival to fit under its roof, where operations can go on rain or shine? I preferred the Slattery plan, but I am open to other more multipurpose ideas and this thoroughly fits the bill. I’m voting yes.

  • There have been a multitude of proposals for renovating the dome. Some had targets for viability. This proposal is really open-ended -spending $217 million to renovate the dome and see if it can be used enough to make it fiscally viable. Sounds like the same logic the Port Authority used in building the cruise terminal.

  • I’ll be voting “no” both early and often.

  • If you vote no, does that mean it gets torn down, or just that the county commissioners have to come back with a different proposal?

  • In addition to what JEV mentions, it’s good to point out that events that happen in the GRB are usually for out of town events, the events that are currently held on in the Reliant area are for the most part, local. Car shows, Bridal shows, Home and Garden shows. And there’s also plenty of hotel space around the area, you are pretty much forced to rent a car though.

  • My thoughts go along with JEV’s, and while I do think Emmett never really expected any of those ‘fully funded’ alternatives to materialize, I’ve come to think it wasn’t to push his own plan because he thinks it’s better, but because he really does want the Dome preserved in some fashion. It’s been over a decade- ideas have come and gone, but every year nothing constructive is done with the Dome is another year it could get torn down. Having listened to the way he talks about the issue, I believe he just wants one single idea set forth- even if it is a pretty conservative plan- because when it comes to a vote, Houston will choose to preserve the Dome, and it’s future can finally be assured.

  • its…

  • For those unconcerned about the construction costs for the new Dome Experience (which will assuredly be higher than is currently estimated due to “unforeseen issues”), remember that air conditioning isn’t free, either. Since HCHSA is planning for the new dome to be, at best, break-even, one should really ask whether a $200 – $300 million subsidy for conventions is the right investment for public monies, is the Dome Experience actually the best option for subsidy.

    From my perspective, if you want to bring conventions to town, and you have $200 million burning a hole in your pocket, then just buy the business. I would rather get sure-fire guarantees from conventioneers to occupy facilities whose ink hasn’t dried on the mortgages than to sink another few hundred dump trucks full of money into “competing”.

    In the meantime, give me my uber-cool shady park where I can relive the rainbow warrior days and walk the virtual base paths with my kids.