Commissioner El Franco Lee, whose Precinct 1 is home to the county-owned Dome, said Commissioners Court is “not under any time constraint” in deciding what to do with the vacant stadium.
“The only constraint we’re under is spending any public money,” Lee said.
Lee noted that about $8 million worth of cleanup work, including asbestos removal, is underway to prepare the Dome for redevelopment or demolition and said that work would be sufficient to prepare the structure for the Super Bowl.
“We’ll be ready for that,” Lee said. “That’s a pretty low bar to meet.”
A memo to the court from the county engineer states that “no major activity can occur until asbestos removal is completed” by next September.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said Tuesday the Super Bowl is “a critical date” when it comes to the Dome’s fate but said the county will allow private parties another shot.
“People continue to come and say, you know, if you give us a little time we’ll have $100 million or $200 million or whatever, and I think Commissioners Court is of a mind that if they show up here and they’ve gone through the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. and they have the money and they want to convert it, then we’ll certainly listen to ideas,” Emmett said.
Private funding is “the only thing you got left, and that is where we wanted to be in the first place,” Lee said.
Emmett said he, too, is hopeful, even while noting the private sector has “had 10 years to come up with the money” to no avail.
The “we’re in no rush” meme appeared immediately after the election, so this is no surprise. Private funding has always been the preference, since it (theoretically, at least) reduces the county’s exposure and most likely avoids the need for any further input from the voters, who needless to say can sometimes go off-script. There’s already a proposal to turn the Dome into a fitness center, with a promise from the proposer that given a couple months’ time he can scare up $200 million or so to do it. Not sure how I feel about that particular idea, but then like all of the others that preceded it, it’s unlikely to ever become anything more than an idea. If we wait around a little longer, and all indications are that we will, I’m sure plenty more ideas of varying levels of practicality will turn up. The question is what will happen if one of them comes with enough money to make a go of it.