The Corruption Trials Behind the Astrodome’s Lost Decade

Any explanation for why a county agency spent 10 years allowing the Astrodome fall into disrepair while haplessly throwing millions of dollars after a sequence of doomed and bizarre plans to redevelop it would have to focus on the thoughtful stewardship of Michael Surface, who presided over the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation from 1999 until his resignation at the end of 2007. Surface’s trial on corruption charges isn’t scheduled to take place until this fall. But jury selection for the trial of his partner in the 5-count federal indictment, Precinct 4 commissioner Jerry Eversole, begins today.

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The charges against Eversole and Surface allege a series of interesting exchanges between the longtime friends: Surface handing over cash and other gifts worth more than $100,000 to Eversole; Surface and his business partners popping up with a series of multi-million-dollar real-estate- and construction-related contracts with the county; and the commissioner repeatedly renominating Surface to head the organization charged with inventing a new use for the Dome.

It is a little strange: We have yet to find a single media report on Eversole’s trial or the charges against him that even mentions the Astrodome in passing. But if you’re trying to figure out how Houston’s best-known building wound up in its current dilapidated, shuttered, and apparently future-free state, you might want to pay close attention to what the folks charged with saving the place were doing all that time.

Photo: Candace Garcia

5 Comment

  • Oh, you know, this is all much ado about nothing. They were just friends. No conflict-of-interest in being friends. Besides, Jerry Eversole didn’t appoint him to this or get him a contract for that by himself. If there was a conflict-of-interest with Eversole, then, well, there was a conflict-of-interst with everone else on commissioners court. So why wasn’t everone else indicted? Why just poor old Jerry Eversole? And why Michael Surface? We all help friends from time to time. We aren’t indicted for helping friends. So why was Michael Surface indicted? How would you feel if you were indicted just for helping a friend?

    That pretty much sums up the defense of “just friends.”

    Things aren’t much different at City Hall.

    As for the Astrodome it has always been the best example of how the Big Daddys and their Good Old Boys work.

    As for the media, we have only had two real investigative reporters in this city through the years. One was at the Chronicle until too many complained about his investigative reporting. The other is still at Channel 13. No doubt he is working on it. Coming soon at 6 pm followed by the shocker at 10.

    My money is on Jerry Eversole being found not guilty. The jury will only see Clint Eastwood. No one is going to find Clint Eastwood guilty of anything. Or a friend of Clint Eastwood.

  • Demolish the Dome! It’s an obsolete sports stadium not Penn Station. When will the Preservationists get over their fetish for preserving junk?

  • I sincerely hope you are wrong Matt Mystery. Of course, the big bucks defense attorney may have some sway.

  • A few years ago, the Reliant staff put out a bid for proposals. I was the person who suggested renovating the dome into a mall/hotel/waterpark/convention center/theater/concert venue. My bid price was in line with current standards. My plan was a good one. I was one of seven people in the world to submit an actual plan for redevelopment.
    After that the “Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation” was formed. Their plans were a mystery until recently. “Their” plan was amazingly the exact same as my copyrighted plan, which they did not know was copyrighted. Since then one of the principals, Michael Surface, has been indicted on felony charges for bribery and other crimes. The “ARC” has stopped their attempt to use the plan, even though they had just received permission from the Rodeo and Reliant, and approved their plan for an exit from the highway straight to the Dome. Their attempt to pilfer my plan has still gone unnoticed. Notice how quiet it has been around this issue. My plan is still the only idea that makes any sense.
    Think about it, between the events at Reliant Stadium, the Rodeo, and the draw from having an indoor water park, this building could remain busy all year round. It would bring income and jobs to the area. It would generate sales tax and realty value and taxes for the city.
    Sure, it is a large undertaking. Until recently, the Reliant staff has hidden the fact that public funding was available for the renovation. This was disclosed by Michael Surface, the same man now indicted. See the article concerning the corruption here: http://swamplot.com/the-corruption-trials-behind-the-astrodomes-lost-decade/2011-03-07/
    If you want the Astrodome to shine again, voice your opinion.

  • Jeff – comment of the day (x2)!