The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation has plenty of material to work with as it prepares to make a recommendation to Commissioners Court about the Astrodome.
Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. staff will spend the next week evaluating 19 plans for redeveloping the Astrodome and putting the finishing touches on the agency’s own proposal to remake the former Eighth Wonder of the World.
Executive Director Willie Loston would not describe any of the ideas in detail on Tuesday, the day after the agency’s submission deadline.
Loston did say, however, that some of them qualify as “proposals,” while others would be more accurately described as “submittals,” meaning they are less developed.
“I think it’s fair to say they’re not necessarily the same,” he said.
Under a resolution approved by the board in April, submitted proposals must be compatible with the Reliant Park Master Plan, abide by the lease rights of the Houston Texans and Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and, most importantly for Commissioners Court, come with financing.
If any proposals meet all those requirements, Loston said they will be presented to the board, along with the agency’s public-use option. He would not give details on that plan, either.
“We are committed to at least a public option of one sort or another,” Loston said. “We will be sending something.”
One thing is certain about the sports corporation’s public-use plan: It is not demolition, which is described in the April resolution as a last-resort option that would be recommended only if no other options pan out, including a failed vote.
It will certainly make a lot of people happy if demolition is not on the table, at least as far as the HCSCC is concerned. I presume that’s still the default way forward if there’s a referendum and it fails. If they recommend one of the private options and Commissioners Court goes for it, then I presume there is no referendum and we leave it in the hands of the private developer, who will hopefully have better luck than the last group to get a green light had.
In the continued absence of any privately funded proposals, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has discussed the likelihood of sending a renovation proposal to voters in an upcoming election. The soonest that could happen is in November, although Emmett said Tuesday that it “ideally” would happen later because the general election ballot will not include any other county-related matters.
Emmett expressed doubt about a privately funded Dome proposal panning out, saying he “would’ve heard if somebody had come in and said we have a check for $400 or $500 million.” Still, he expressed confidence that the Sports Corp. will bring a good “solution,” and said he hopes it is something he can support.
“I think the Sports & Convention Corp. is on a positive track and I think on the 19th, when they unveil what they’re going to propose to us, then the real public discussion starts,” Emmett said. “In theory, we could look at the recommendation and say, ‘We don’t like that, bring us something else,’ but in an ideal world they’ll bring us a recommendation that we go, ‘That’s a great idea,’ and then it’s a question of taking that to the public.”
Before anything ends up on a ballot, Emmett said the court will have to figure out the exact price and how to pay for it. A combination of public and private dollars is possible, he said.
The HCSCC board will vote on what to recommend on the 25th, and from there it’s up to Judge Emmett and the Commissioners. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Houston Politics, which goes into detail about the business incubator proposal, has more.