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The case for the Astrodome

Lisa Falkenberg lays it out.

We have a plan!

But here’s the thing: leaders have to balance today’s needs with tomorrow’s. The long view has its virtues. And frankly, it’s been all to absent in the decision-making of Houston and Harris County. Shortsightedness has gotten us into a lot of trouble – from poor investment in flooding infrastructure to irresponsible growth that increased the region’s vulnerability during storms and rain events.

It has led us to pave over prairies. To bulldoze historic architecture and old trees and character. And yes, to leave an expensive, beloved, world-famous landmark with a lot of tourism potential rotting away in full view of visitors and homefolk alike.

So, sure, it may seem tone deaf to pour money into the Astrodome right now, but the decision seems to be in tune with Houston’s future needs.

And critics of the decision either don’t understand the facts, or willfully ignore them.


So let’s address the naysayers, point by point, with a little help from Emmett, the county judge.

*CLAIM: Harris County voters already voted to demolish the dome.

No, they didn’t. They voted down a proposed bond for a much bigger $217 million renovation project. They said loud and clear that they didn’t want county commissioners borrowing money to fund a dome project, and Emmett says the county listened. He says the stripped-down plan to raise the dome for parking and open it for special events makes financial and logistical sense, as it will produce revenue, and also provide space for first responders during a storm, and potential storage for the medical supplies during those events. “Would you really want us spending $35 million to tear down a perfectly usable building?” Emmett says he asks people who bring up the vote. And he points out that demolition is no longer an option anyway, since the Texas Historical Commission has designated the Astrodome a state antiquities landmark, giving the stadium special protections against demolition.

See here for some background. As you know, I think this is a decent and workable plan. I expect people will disagree with that – Emmett’s Democratic opponent Lina Hidalgo has made the “voters rejected the bond proposal” and “we have other priorities” arguments on Facebook. I believe the case for it is sound, and I appreciate Falkenberg laying it out as she did. If you don’t see it that way, take what she wrote as your starting point and take your best shot from there.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    “*CLAIM: Harris County voters already voted to demolish the dome.

    No, they didn’t.”

    Hey Ed, there’s a general election coming up. Why not put the taxpayer’s money where your mouth is and put the question on the general election ballot. Here, I’ll help, so you don’t need a bunch of $ 400 per hour lawyer buddies to craft the question.

    “Should the county tear down the Astrodome and replace it with a parking lot? Yes means tear it down, no means do not tear it down.”

  2. voter_worker says:

    The ballot language in November 2013 was clear enough:

    Harris County,
    THE ISSUANCE OF $217,000,000.00

    (Vote for none or one)



    Unfortunately for the sake of clarity, several elected officials made remarks that I’d put in the “loose lips sink ships” category in that they prompted a public perception that a vote against was equivalent to voting for demolition. This was reinforced by media reporting.

    I’m fine with what is happening with the Astrodome, but I agree with those who advocate for better ballot language going forward.

  3. David Fagan says:

    It cost $272,000,000 to build the Astrodome (in 2017 dollars), $105,000,000 to put into it, and after 52 years there is still money owed on the original bill? This is bad business. Where are the
    business model for government models supporters on this? This is being upside down on a loan. If this is supposed to bring in tax dollars, then where is the tax dollars to pay off the original cost of conduction and maintenance?

  4. David Fagan says:

    $352,000,000 for NRG plus $50,000,000 for the super bowl to grace our presence, $313,000,000 for the Toyota center, $355,000,000 for minute maid park, $101,000,000 for BBVA, now $10,000,000 for a rugby field. Including the dome, in 2017 dollars, that’s about $1,286,000,000 in sports facilities. Not including maintenance. Do those fees and revenue go into a general, or a specialized fund? If the commission couldn’t pay off one of these facilities in 55 years, what are they going to do with six? They could probably blame it on public employees.

  5. Bill Daniels says:


    I’m pretty sure the original Dome bonds are paid off, but the taxpayers are still on the hook for Bud Adams’ skybox renovations that he demanded, before he took his marbles and went to Tennessee. You would have thought maybe we would have learned from that, but no.