Astrodome Future: Whole Lot Brighter Once You Scratch Surface

If you were wondering why the four-year effort to redevelop the Astrodome seemed like it was being run by the Keystone Kops, here’s a small piece of information that might start to explain a few things: Michael Surface, who up until a few weeks ago was chairman of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., has been indicted on corruption charges:

In order to secure business from the city of Houston, prosecutors allege, Schatte and Surface bribed Monique McGilbra, the city’s director of building services under then-Mayor Lee Brown, and hired her boyfriend, Garland Hardeman, as a consultant.

McGilbra pleaded guilty in 2005 to accepting bribes and has cooperated with prosecutors on the indictment.

According to the indictment, Schatte, 59, and Surface, 47, gave McGilbra free use of Schatte’s California condo, tickets to professional football games and a box containing champagne and $1,000 in cash. They also paid Hardeman more than $40,000 in consulting fees — $7,800 of which he funneled to McGilbra.

This is, of course, the same Michael Surface who decided to run a “competition” for the right to redevelop the Astrodome more than four years ago with this screwy premise: Ideas would only be considered if they were proposed by developers who had experience with projects of a similar size; but developers with experience on projects of a similar size would not be considered unless their ideas were considered acceptable. And yes, he’s the same Michael Surface who kept pushing the “winner” of the competition — Astrodome Redevelopment Corp. — to change its proposal from a space-themed amusement park to a convention hotel. And who gave them, during all that time, exclusive rights to negotiate a deal.

It’s not so surprising that new proposals for the Dome have begun to leak out in the few short weeks since Surface abruptly resigned his HCSCC post.