ADDING UP THE ASTRODOLLARS Teevee reporter Ted Oberg finds that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation expects to make about $4 million a year on the New Dome, once it’s cleaned up and converted into 350,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space for things like, say, bowling competitions, hardware shows, or the Quidditch World Championships. “[But] costs,” cautions Oberg, “will eat up $3.9 million of it.” Still, HCSCC chair Edgar Colon seems undaunted by these figures: “It will be self-sufficient.” [abc13; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: New Dome PAC
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DOME’S RANSOM “The problem isn’t that anti-Domers only think about money, it’s that pro-Domers won’t consider it at all. Would you ever tell your mechanic ‘I love my car so much, there’s no amount of money I wouldn’t spend to keep it forever’? No, because that’s an invitation to get swindled — the mechanic knows he can do all sorts of unnecessary work that the actual value of the car doesn’t justify. You’ll end up paying more, which will make it less likely that you’ll actually be able to afford to keep that car forever.
Same thing with the Dome; a lot of people are shouting ‘we’ll keep the Dome at any cost!’ What do you know, along comes a very expensive, not very practical plan for a convention center no one needs. How long will that last before the next person comes along and says the convention center is too old, and we have to spend more money or tear it down?
If you really want to save the Dome, grow a backbone and say that there are limits to how much Houston taxpayers should pour into it; that’s when you’ll get a plan that benefits the community enough to be sustainable. Otherwise you are just keeping the hostage alive until the next payment is due, and that can’t go on forever.” [Alec, commenting on It’s Like a Billboard. On Wheels. For the Astrodome.] Illustration: Lulu
Haven’t decided yet what you think should happen to the Astrodome? The preservation-minded folks at Our Astrodome hope that seeing this 26-ft. bedazzled semi just might do the trick. Starting Monday and running up to the elections on November 5, when voters will decide whether to approve — or not, and, as most suspect, doom the Dome to a more thorough demolition than what’s already happening — that $217 bond measure that would fund a renovation of the stadium into convention space, the tricked-out Dome Mobile will be rolling around town to spread the word about Proposition 2 and the world’s first domed stadium.
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VOTE FOR NEW DOME, SAYS MAYOR PARKER As the demolition — or, as Judge Ed Emmett might call it, the improvement — of some of the exterior features of the Astrodome begins, Mayor Parker has declared her support of the seeming this-or-nothing $217 million bond measure that would pay for a slimming down and cleaning up of the aging icon to make it ready for convention and exhibition space. Says the incumbent about the so-called New Dome: “This plan will bring jobs, a positive economic impact and a renewed sense of pride in the Dome for all Houstonians.” [Preservation Houston; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation
NO, THESE ARE ASTRODOME “IMPROVEMENTS,” SAYS JUDGE EMMETT Harris County Judge Ed Emmett plays a game of semantics with KUHF’s Gail Delaughter to try to clear up any lingering misconceptions and assert that the removal beginning this week of the Astrodome’s exterior features — ticket booths, grass berms, concrete ramps, substations, transmission lines, and stair pavilions — isn’t what it might seem to be: “I would actually like to call them improvements to the Dome rather than demolition to the Dome. This does in no way presage any demolition of the Dome. This is an improvement that had to be made, probably should have been made a long time ago, but we’re doing it now.” [KUHF; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
WHERE THE MONEY FOR THIS EARLY DOME DEMO WILL COME FROM The demolition of the exterior features of the Astrodome, expected to begin Monday, could take until June, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier — though it appears that the $8 million that will be spent knocking down the ticket booths, concrete ramps, substations, transmission lines, and grass berms is included in the bond measure that voters won’t decide to pay for — or not — until next month. At any rate, Collier adds that asbestos abatement and demolition of the stair towers aren’t scheduled until December, when it will be clear whether the Dome will come all the way down or be converted into a convention center. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
Part of the so-called “New Dome Experience” devised by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. proposes that the space-age icon be slimmed down — and, if this new promo video is any indication, that means more than just removing ramps and staircases from the stadium’s unwashed exterior, but also chopping its name in half. You’ll see in this new commercial, produced by the recently formed committee to persuade voters in advance of this November’s this-or-nothing bond election, that the Astrodome is referred to throughout solely as “the Dome,” whether it’s hosting technology conferences, Ferris wheel demonstrations, or generic swimming championships.
ANYONE GOT A BETTER IDEA FOR THE ASTRODOME? The Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. might have passed over everyone else’s ideas about what to do with the Astrodome, but that doesn’t mean that no one would pick them: Thus, Architect’s Newspaper and YKK AP are sponsoring a Dome design competition to launch its new Southwest edition. The gist of the contest: A jury will award cash prizes to the 5 best ideas, which will be featured in the inaugural issue to debut November 6: “[W]e feel that the current proposal can only be made better by an infusion of fresh ideas. . . . Great aspirations and utopian schemes are welcome, as are feasible proposals that mesh with The New Dome Experience.” You’ve got to pay to play and register by September 17 to compete. [Arch Paper; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West
COMMENT OF THE DAY: IS THIS THE REAL ASTRODOME PLAN? “The KHOU talking heads last night floated the suggestion that this vote is merely ‘air cover’ for Harris County to wash its hands of the Dome. Are they going to go through the motions of ‘supporting’ the plan, but with extremely faint praise, see it defeated, then trot out ‘the people have spoken’ while scraping it off? Are our elected County officials smart enough to pull that off?
And if somehow it actually passes, some of their friends get to make some money! Is this what they call a ‘win-win’?” [Al, commenting on Sports and Convention Corp.: We Have Ways To Make You Like Our Astrodome Plan] Illustration: Lulu
SPORTS AND CONVENTION CORP.: WE HAVE WAYS TO MAKE YOU LIKE OUR ASTRODOME PLAN Unlike that rather inadequately advertised call for private bids about what to do with the Astrodome, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. appears to be taking very public pains before the November bond referendum to make sure everyone knows about its $217 million plan to slim down and spruce up the dingy behemoth into a convention center and event space. KUHF reports that the HCSCC has agreed to form a committee charged with getting the word out and appealing to voters that its plan is the best plan. Judge Ed Emmett explains: “Most voters have an opinion — either they want to save the Dome or they don’t want to save the Dome. And those that are leaning towards saving the Dome, have to be convinced that this is a purpose that makes sense.” [KUHF; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of New Dome Experience: HCSCC
Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman and Judge Ed Emmett are already saying that, were that $217 million bond election to turn the Astrodome into a convention center (as shown in the rendering above) to fail this November, then the Dome would probably be torn down — but will that be stated clearly on the ballot? So far, that doesn’t seem to have been decided — or even mentioned as a possibility. What is clear is that the November vote is being touted as a this-or-nothing proposition. The Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier reports:
[Emmett and Morman] said Tuesday they see no other alternative than to demolish the former ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ which has sat vacant since city inspectors declared it unfit for occupancy in 2009. . . . ‘If it does not pass in November, then that should be the death knell for the Dome,’ Morman said.
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
SUPER BOWL FEVER SPEEDING UP ASTRODOME DECIDERS If it seems kinda arbitrary and sorta abrupt, that June 10 now-or-never deadline for Astrodome ideas that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation set, it might be because another deadline is looming larger: February 2017, when Reliant Stadium will play host to the Super Bowl. Kiah Collier reports that once the Commissioners Court hears back from the various county agencies asked to study the $194 million plan to convert the Dome into a convention center, a public vote could happen as early as November. Still, that would give the county only 39 months before the big game to execute the conversion that’s estimated to take at least 30. Judge Ed Emmett tells Collier: “If we don’t have it this year [the New Dome Experience] won’t be ready in time for the Final Four and the Super Bowl and I hate to miss those opportunities.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: HCSCC
What’s another few weeks when we’ve been waiting this long? As some likely expected, the Harris County Commissioners Court decided today that it wasn’t quite ready to decide on the proposal the Sports and Convention Corporation recommended last week to convert the Astrodome into a 355,000-sq.-ft. convention space. According to the Chronicle’s Houston Politics blog and KHOU, the $194 million plan will be passed along to the county’s budget office, attorney, and infrastructure department for further review. (You can download and read a version of the plan here. Of course there’s no rush.) Judge Ed Emmett says that he expects to hear back in about a month.
BEYONCé’S DAD COULDN’T FIND THE SCRATCH TO MAKE ASTRODOME SPLASH One of those 19 bids that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation never really asked for and passed over anyway for its own proposing that the Astrodome be converted into a slimmer, shallower, convention center was submitted, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier, by Beyoncé Knowles’s father. Well, maybe “submitted” is too strong a word: Apparently, Mathew Knowles emailed HCSCC honcho Willie Loston with a promise to email again later with an idea for a Splashtown-like concept for the Dome. But there was never any “financial backing,” reports Collier. (You can almost hear ’em singing: If you liked it, you shoulda tried to pay for it.) Today, the HCSCC will be recommending its $194 million idea to the commissioners court. And where’s that money supposed to come from? Here’s Collier: “Loston said he suspects the court will refer the plan to the county budget or infrastructure office ‘for further study.’ The budget office has said it will look for ways to generate revenue so the county won’t have to ask taxpayers to foot the entire bill.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: HCSCC