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More reactions to the new Astrodome report

Texans owner Bob McNair says “Sure, that’s nice and all, but don’t you forget about me.”

This would be cheaper to renovate

“Our first concern is Reliant Stadium,” McNair said Thursday. “We want to make sure we’ve got adequate funds there for repairs, replacement and improvements, and right now we don’t have ade-quate funds. I’d like to see that taken care of first.”

McNair claimed only $2.5 million is going into the stadium’s upkeep fund when $8 million is needed, explaining that the economic downturn since 2008 has significantly cut into tax revenues that would have been earmarked for stadium repairs, replacement parts and upgrades.

“(Commissioners) court has been very supportive,” said McNair, who watched the Texans’ OTA practice with Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, on whose turf the Reliant complex sits. “It’s just now being brought to their attention. They’re contractually obligated to (maintain the stadium), but with the recession and the difference in tax receipts that were anticipated, there hasn’t been as much money available. (The Texans) and the rodeo have helped, and we’ll continue to do that. But it’s something that needs to be addressed long term.

“Compared to the other issues that we’re looking at, it’s a drop in the bucket. I think it needs to be addressed first.”

He is of course comparing costs with that of the proposed Astrodome/Reliant Arena renovation, which would almost certainly require a tax increase to pay for.

Bill Jackson, the county’s chief budget officer, said such a large bond issue likely would require a tax hike or deep budget cuts, particularly given other projects for which the county will need to sell bonds, such as a forensic sciences facility.

Financing $500 million over 30 years at 5 percent interest would require $28 million annually, Jackson said. For comparison, $28 million covers the annual costs for all but seven of the county’s dozens of departments, not counting the commissioners.

“It would be very difficult with everything we that have on our plate right now” to issue $500 million in bonds without a tax hike, Jackson said. “It’s a matter of setting priorities and figuring that out.”

A one-cent tax increase would generate about $26 million a year, Jackson said. That increase would raise the taxes on a $200,000 home by $16 annually, assuming the owner had a homestead exemption.

Yes, let’s talk priorities. I’m certainly not opposed to the idea of a tax increase. I’ve argued for some time now that Harris County should have considered at least rolling back the property tax cut they made a few years back to avoid or at least reduce the need for layoffs during the downturn. This project, in whatever form, would not be where I would want to see extra revenues go. It’s not even close. If it came up for a vote, I would vote against it. I agree with Judge Emmett here:

“The way it was trotted out, we’re going to re-purpose the Dome and we’re going to replace the arena with a new building,” Emmett said. “If we’re doing that, why don’t we use the Dome for the purposes the arena was being used for? Because that would obviously cost less.”

Yes. What exactly would a renovated Dome and/or Reliant Arena actually be used for? More to the point, what use could one or the other have that isn’t currently being addressed by some other facility? And even if there is some identifiable unfulfilled need, why would we need both of them for it? I touched on that yesterday, and John Royal asks as well.

Essentially they want to raise the floor and turn the Dome into a small venue for football, soccer, hockey, basketball, and concerts. But that’s also what they want to do with Reliant Arena. And what the consultants want to do with the Dome is what is supposed to be done with that new taxpayer-funded paradise the Dynamo is playing in. You know, that new small stadium meant for hosting soccer, football, and concerts. And one of the purposes for renovating Hofheinz Pavilion, besides giving the Cougars a modern basketball facility, is using it, once again, for concerts. And I’m sure Les Alexander would love Harris County trying to steal business from his Harris County-funded arena.

Royal concludes, with a heavy heart, that it would be better to demolish the Dome and put it out of its misery. The more this all drags out, the most I think that’s where we’re headed whether we want to admit it now or not. That said, I must admit I’ve not seen many good ideas for what to do with the empty space post-demolition. Turning it into some sort of park, as Royal and others suggest, sounds nice but who would actually use it? What attractions would be there to draw people in, and who would pay to build and maintain them? The upside is that this is by far the cheaper option, even if the cost of demolition is still on the way high end compared to other stadia.

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