Last month, when voters rejected a referendum that would have authorized up to $217 million dollars in bonds to turn the Astrodome into a giant convention and event center, many felt the iconic structure was destined for demolition. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says that hasn’t slowed the interest in preserving it somehow:
“It’s a complicated issue, but I will say that my communication with my office has been overwhelming, in terms of ‘Gee, do something to save the Astrodome’. And I’m going ‘Okay, we’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Resident Brendan Cooney came before Judge Emmett and commissioners with his simple idea.
“My hope is to convert it into a place where Houstonians can walk long distances; they can ride their bikes; they can jog, as well as be out of the elements and all dangers of doing all those activities in the city.”
His presentation before the court did not include an artist’s rendering of his proposal. Cooney’s idea is one of many over the last few years that have never gained traction, but he claims he’s managed to generate interest from private investors willing to fund it.
“Anyone of them on their own can could give us a $100 million dollars, but I’m seeking several different sponsors to raise a $100 million dollars within 120 days, and I will walk back through the doors of Commissioner’s Court — if they give me the approval, and we can continue to talk about this, based on the ability of me to raise this money.”
Commissioner El Franco Lee, whose precinct includes the Astrodome complex, says he and his colleagues on the court will make the ultimate decision in saving it, or knocking it down.
“We have a time constraint for some immediate things that need to be done, like get ready for the Super Bowl and live up to commitment made by the Super Bowl officials, who chose the city, and that will give us a little more of a boost. Every time that we are in the media, hopefully it heightens a positive awareness about what the Dome is, what it was, what it can be.”
Commissioner Lee, like Judge Emmett would like to see it saved, but Emmett says the time is now for visionaries to put their money where their mouths are:
“It’s been there for a long time. I mean, I never cease to be amazed but, hopefully that will generate some interest, maybe from some other part of the world even.”
He adds a decision will have to be made quickly.