Astrodome's Future Continues To Drag On

Judging by the capacity crowd inside Commissioner's Court, one would have thought that the results of a half-million dollar consultant's study on what to do with the Astrodome was about to bear fruit. Instead, commissioners sent the consultants back to the drawing board.

Last month, they recommended turning the stadium into a multi-purpose facility at a cost of about $280 million, as well as replacing seldom used Reliant Arena with a 10,000 seat show ground facility.

Edgar Colon is chairman of the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation. He says now another plan independent of the consultants' recommendation, will now be studied.

"You know, if we're still thinking about demolishing the Astrodome, why not just put the new arena and the expansion of the center into the Astrodome? That is the option that we're now pursuing. This is uh, we're gonna have to go back to the drawing board, and it's gonna take us at least another couple of months to evaluate it."

(George Strait singing, "They took my saddle in Houston, rolled my leg in Santa Fe ...)  

Ten years after George Strait closed the Astrodome with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it now costs at least $2 million a year just to maintain the empty structure.

Cynthia Neely wanted to be part of turning the inside into a giant movie studio. She told commissioners that now, her tax dollars are being wasted.

"The very people who let the building go into ruin, the ones who let it fall apart, are now proposing to the County Commissioners, that they consider spending over $600 million of our dollars to improve the Dome and the park? That's ridiculous!"

Ed Emmett:  "I think it is a valid point to say, a better job could have been done maintaining it."

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says a decision to give a group exclusive rights to develop the dome into a hotel, sidetracked the future of the facility by four years. That deal fell apart.

"And it's during that time that I think, it sort of slid out of control. Going forward, the decision on the Astrodome is not gonna be easy, and if it does involve the amount of money that they're talking about, that's going to involve voter approval. There's no way around it."

He admits the one constant affecting the Dome is deterioration.

"I've said that this is the year we need to make that decision. Now, there are four other members of Commissioner's court, but I think everybody understands that we can't just leave it sitting there like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot. We need to make a decision."

Emmett adds the earliest voters could help decide if the Astrodome is worth saving would be next May.

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