08/26/14 3:30pm

Astrodome Interior Minus Seats, Houston

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s new “not fully hashed out” plan for reusing the Astrodome is to turn the structure into the world’s largest indoor public park and recreation area. The park might incorporate a number of public institutions and museums within it. Plus: a pavilion for music and other events, and sports facilities such as archery ranges and hiking and biking trails, an archery center, and a large open green space. The fully air-conditioned park would be open to the public every day — except when used by the Rodeo and conferences such as the OTC.

Will Harris County citizens support turning the Astrodome into a park? Strangely, the best evidence that a majority would favor it may come from a recent survey commissioned by 2 organizations that have been trying very hard to get the building torn down.


Texans and Rodeo Fans on Board?
07/11/14 12:45pm

Astrodome Blocking Circulation Diagram from Rodeo and Texans ProposalSwamplot will dig into some of the more entertaining and eye-opening details of the proposal later. But in the meantime, before folks go around shouting “heck, yeah!”, hyperventilating, or considering it all but a done deal, you might want to make note of a few circumstances surrounding the release of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans‘ 37-page illustrated guide to spending $66 million of somebody’s money to tear down the Astrodome and build a memorial park and “Hall of Fame” in its place.

The proposal was leaked to reporters yesterday — likely before the Rodeo and the Texans had planned, a source tells Swamplot. (A sample “huh?” slide from it is illustrated above.) Nevertheless, the release marks the latest evolution in the 2 organizations’ willingness to publicly acknowledge their (likely longstanding) role as the foremost opponents of preserving the Astrodome in any form. (Last year the Rodeo and the Texans released a cost estimate for turning the Dome into a parking lot.) Whether this is a concerted strategy in the organizations’ campaign to kill the Dome or a fumble, it does signal a possible risk for them: What would happen if the until-now-growing sense among many Houstonians that everything possible has been tried and somehow mysteriously “won’t work” (blow up the place already, I’m tired of hearing about it!) gave way to a realization that the same 2 parties may have, in fact, been responsible for bungling, blocking, discouraging, sabotaging, or outright vetoing every single proposal for saving or revamping the Astrodome over the last dozen years? Would it kill all the seeming public-sentiment victories they’ve achieved so far?


Dome-Be-Gone for $66 Million
11/07/13 10:00am

NOW PICTURE HOUSTON’S ASTRODOME REPLACED BY A GIANT WET PIT Simply filling in the 9-acre, 35-ft.-deep hole in the ground where the Astrodome now sits would eat up more than $10 million of the estimated $28 million it would cost to demolish the publicly owned structure, according to county engineers. (Another $8 million of that total has already been approved, for removal of asbestos, ticket booths, turnstiles, grass berms, and ramps, plus all the seats and interior items; that demo work is already taking place.) Which leads county commissioner Steve Radack to suggest that the money be saved and the site be turned into a giant flood-preventing detention pond — “if and when” it is demolished. That’d make for a rather eloquent and down-to-earth symbol to substitute for Houston’s most famous landmark. Judge Emmett, who before the failed bond vote favored preserving the Dome by renovating it, declared after Tuesday’s election defeat that “We’re going to have to do something quick.” But commissioner Jack Cagle says he has no deadlines for a decision in mind. So who’s pushing to have the Dome demolished in a hurry? The same folks who’ve been calling the aging structure an “inconvenience” to Rodeo and Texans game visitors, write the Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier and Nancy Sarnoff: “Reliant Park’s main tenants, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans want the county to act as quickly as possible, and certainly before the Super Bowl comes to Reliant Stadium in early 2017.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou detention basin: John Lienhard

11/04/13 5:00pm

WILL THE RODEO OR THE TEXANS PAY RENT TO USE THE ASTRODOME? Contradicting teevee reporter Ted Oberg’s declaration a couple of weeks ago that the county’s own projections show that the renovated Astrodome would barely break even, the Chronicle’s Kiah Collier produces the county’s underlying single-sheet financial summary (PDF), which projects net operating income of $1.9 million a year for a redone Dome, based on $4 million in revenue. There’s not a lot of detail behind any of the “ballpark” figures that go into that projection, though — and there’s clearly been disagreement over a couple of revenue sources that may or may not be included in it. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has now officially endorsed (PDF) the bond proposal on tomorrow’s ballot that would fund the conversion of the Astrodome into “The New Dome Experience” — but only, it seems, after wresting commitments from county officials to create some sort of repair fund for Reliant Stadium and to pay for repairs to the Reliant Arena — before replacing it, somewhere down the line. Judge Emmett and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp.’s Edgar Colón now say the Rodeo may not have to pay rent to use the revamped facility, but whether the free-rent deal the Rodeo had with the Astrodome legally applies to a renovated and seemingly repurposed facility isn’t quite so clear to other officials Collier talks to, who claim any payments would be “worked out later.” The Houston Texans, meanwhile, who earlier this year with the Rodeo promoted a study showing how a $29 million demolition of the Dome would clear way for 2,500 shiny new parking spots — have been standing on the sidelines while the bond proposal is put to voters. Really, the team would have no interest at all in using a completely revamped name-brand facility right next to the site of the 2017 Super Bowl, even? “If the Astrodome is renovated,” the team’s coy statement reads, “we would consider using it, but do not have a specific use in mind at the present time . . .” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of the New Dome Experience: New Dome PAC/Kirksey Architecture

05/14/13 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: BOGARTING THE ASTRODOME “The only roadblock to redevelopment of the Dome, as I see it, are two self-interested organizations that are afforded an unwarranted and undeserved say in the matter.” [TheNiche, commenting on Headlines: Itemizing Astrodome Tax Expenses; El Tiempo Cantina Heading South]

03/21/13 4:45pm

ROGER GOODELL: 2,500 EXTRA PARKING SPACES DOES SOUND PRETTY GOOD The study paid for by the Texans and the Rodeo that found the Astrodome could be torn down and replaced with 2,500 parking spots for $29 million — the one Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said he’s putting on his shelf — has apparently made its way to the desk of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who seems to have crunched the numbers in light of Houston’s impending bid to host the 2017 Super Bowl. Goodell, reports the Houston Chronicle‘s John McClain, says he doesn’t want to get involved in the dome demo drama right before getting involved:That issue is for the community to decide, but I think having an extra 2,500 parking spaces would enhance Houston’s bid.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock

03/21/13 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE TEAM THAT’S TRYING TO TEAR DOWN THE ASTRODOME “The more this saga continues, the more I’m inclined to agree with the opinion that the dome should become the Rodeo’s and the Texans’ problem, since they seem to shoot down every idea that’s ever been proposed for the reuse of the dome. Clearly their goal is to be rid of the place, so they’ve dragged the repurposing process out long enough for the place to fall into disrepair in order to seal the dome’s fate. Both the Rodeo and the Texans are flush with cash, so if they want it gone, let them pay for the demolition.” [KC, commenting on Judge Emmett Not Impressed by Texans, Rodeo Plan To Demolish the Astrodome]

03/20/13 10:00am

JUDGE EMMETT NOT IMPRESSED BY TEXANS, RODEO PLAN TO DEMOLISH THE ASTRODOME A study paid for by the Houston Texans and the Livestock Show and Rodeo has determined that tearing down the Astrodome will cost a hair more than $29 million, reports Fox 26, but Harris County judge Ed Emmett doesn’t seem all that moved by the study’s finding: “Unless there’s something there I didn’t see when it came across my desk, all I saw were two or three options for how to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot. I know that’s their position. I’m not denigrating it, but that doesn’t really move the ball anywhere.” And what’s Emmett going to do with the study? “Read it and put it on a shelf. . . . It’s not meaningful at all.” [Fox 26; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

02/08/13 3:00pm

For a charitable nonprofit, Rodeo Houston comes across as a tad indifferent about one of Houston’s neediest causes: CEO Skip Wagner tells the Houston Business Journal‘s Emily Wilkinson that Rodeo Houston is “busting at the seams” and needs more space: “And we’ve got 18 acres that is just wasted right in the heart of Reliant.” What, Wilkinson asks, would Wagner prefer to see happen to the Astrodome?

“Honestly, we don’t care. There are two options — one is tear it down. If so, it would become open area, and we would use it effectively that way. Second, ultimately if they gut it or renovate it, as long as we can use it to put on elements of our show, then we’re fine with that.”

And what about the 48 acres Rodeo Houston bought of the former AstroWorld site across 610? “We could move things like our bus operations over there and expand the presentation footprint (at Reliant),” says Wagner. “We can look at how to use it for its maximum benefit — maybe put in some RV hookups.”

Photo: Candace Garcia

12/14/12 9:47am

Longtime speculation that the entire vacant 104-acre site formerly occupied by the AstroWorld amusement park might someday be turned into some sort of singular mixed-use development took a hit yesterday as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo announced it is buying the entire western half of the property, which sits across the 610 Loop from Reliant Park. The charitable organization hopes to close on the 48-acre tract by the end of the year. The purchase price is listed on its website as approximately $42.8 million, or $20.50 per sq. ft., “after charitable considerations by the seller.” That’s a Dallas investment firm known as the Mallick Group, which has owned the vacant property since 2010.

What will it rodeo do on all that land?


02/27/09 9:27am

THE ASTROLOT: HOUSTON’S NEWEST TRANSIT HUB Another scene from the active afterlife of the former theme park: The 150 acre lot formerly known as Astroworld has been empty for a while, but is expected to be packed on Friday when it will be available for rodeo parking. . . . Lighting towers will be brought in and parts of the property not suitable for parking, such as areas with holes in the ground, will be marked off. There will be entrances along the 610 feeder between Kirby and Fannin and exits off of Belfort. After the rodeo, all entrances will be used as exits so all traffic will flow out of the lot. There are only about 12,000 parking spaces on the actual rodeo site. Officials welcome the new 5,000 space parking opportunity. . . . The lot is not paved and is bumpy, two factors that do not bother some rodeo patrons. . . . ‘We think it’s great that people will be able to cross the bridge and it will bring back memories of when Astroworld was here,’ [Andi Devera of the Fazeli Group, owners of the leasing rights] said. The Astrolot opens this Friday.” [abc13; previously]

11/07/07 8:02am

Astros Vs. Expos at the Astrodome, 1992

More high comedy surrounding the Astrodome: Just what is Texans owner Bob McNair’s problem with the proposal to redevelop the Astrodome into a hotel? It’s . . . the hotel!

“A hotel would be in direct conflict with our games and when the rodeo is going on. You can’t tell guests they can’t come to the hotel on Sundays. That wouldn’t be fair to them. It wouldn’t be fair to our fans.

“We’re trying to be open-minded about this. We’re willing to look at anything that doesn’t conflict with our events.”

Now, you’re probably asking yourself: Haven’t the Texans known that the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation was wanting to turn the Dome into a hotel now for about . . . what, three years? Wouldn’t the two groups maybe have wanted to chat with each other at some point during that period?

Silly you! You’re presuming that the Texans and the Rodeo and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation — Reliant Park’s landlords — actually have some intention or incentive to come up with a workable plan to redevelop the Astrodome. And you’re forgetting that turning the Dome into a hotel was an idea pushed early on by . . . the HCSCC’s chairman, Mike Surface! Remember that space-theme amusement-park concept that was so brilliant that the group that proposed it won the “competition” the HCSCC set up four years ago — even over other developer groups that had more experience and deeper pockets? That group was the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation.

A year later the ARC scrapped its own space-park concept in favor of the convention-hotel complex pushed by the HCSCC. With the Sports and Convention Corporation’s backing, the company worked in secret for three more years to refine the proposal.

Good thing the HCSCC didn’t solicit any alternate proposals during that time. Just think of the confusion that would have caused!

Photo of Astrodome from August 28, 1992: Flickr user j4e0f0f

11/01/07 10:22am

Overhead View of Proposed Astrodome Hotel

You know things must be getting desperate for the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation, which earlier this week suffered the indignity of having two rather important stakeholders come out against the latest incarnation of the company’s tightly guarded, four-years-in-the-making, Frankenstein-inspired proposal for bringing the Dome back to life. When they finally got to see the proposal, “recently,” the Texans and the Livestock Show & Rodeo decided the Astrodome’s new incarnation would be incompatible with their own operations.

But the greatest indication of the redevelopment group’s desperation was revealed just yesterday in local ABC-TV reporter Miya Shay’s blog. That’s right, the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation is going for broke: The company finally decided to release to the public actual images of its proposal for the county-owned facility!

Yes, it’s a daring strategy to use on a property paid for by local taxpayers, but it just might work.

After the jump: the newly released images of the Astrodome hotel-under-glass!


10/31/07 11:46am

Reliant Astrodome

A funny thing happened on the Astrodome Redevelopment Corp.‘s way to, uh . . . redevelop the Astrodome: They forgot to get buy-in on their kitchen-sink proposal from a few important parties:

The $450 million plan to reinvent the Reliant Astrodome as an upscale convention hotel may have hit a wall Tuesday when the Texans and Houston rodeo officials came out against it.

The Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s contracts may give them veto power over new development at Reliant Park. Also, a letter of intent signed by the county and Astrodome Redevelopment Corp. requires the company to get the Texans and the rodeo to sign off on the project.

Oops! Hey, it might have been a good idea to ask these folks what they would approve of—before spending four years scheming in their secret design bunker. Just a suggestion . . .

“Not until we saw their plans recently did we realize that this project has the ability to cannibalize our operations,” said Leroy Shafer, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s chief operating officer. “Every dollar spent that is spent there is one that might not be spent at the rodeo.”

Jamey Rootes, president of the Houston Texans, said the team was worried that the hotel would hamper the flow of fans in and out of Reliant Park on the team’s 10 game days.

The nerve! The response from Scott Hanson, president of the Astrodome Redevelopment Corp.:

Frankly, we are quite shocked by the Rodeo’s position. We have been working with the Rodeo organization for quite some time and were hopeful that our proposed redevelopment would only enhance their month-long event.

Apparently, “working with” does not include “sharing details of the proposal before it is complete.”

At last, the beauty of the Sports and Convention Corporation’s original plot from a few years ago is revealed: give exclusive rights to flail about in secret in search of a new use for the Dome to a company that, um . . . is really good at being secretive and flailing.

Coming next from those brilliant Dome masters: If these jokers can’t figure out what to do with that thing, maybe no jokers can!

Astrodome photo: Flickr user here_we_are