Vote, What Vote? It's Time to Discuss the Astrodome's Future, Yet Again
Photo by Abrahán Garza
And so it begins again. The quest to save the Astrodome from the uncaring philistines who care nothing for architecture or history. Sure, there was a vote last November. And sure, the voters defeated a measure that would have used taxpayer funds to turn the Astrodome into a glorified visitor center for the use of the Texans and the Rodeo.
The vote was never meant to be the final word on the fate of the Astrodome, despite the voices of all the doomsayers saying a no vote meant sure destruction. The people who voted no probably thought that, too. Enough with the yearly wasting of millions of taxpayer dollars for a facility that is currently not safe to be used for any purpose.
That might be what the voters thought last November. But thinking has nothing to do with reality. A reality that this week has the brilliant minds responsible for the current condition of the facility meeting to once again discuss the fate of the Astrodome.
"The Judge [Harris County Judge Ed Emmett] is going to call a meeting and he's begun contacting people, essentially the folks who have an interest in the Astrodome," Emmett's director of communications, Joe Stinebaker, told Fox 26 last week.
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That meeting is on Wednesday morning, and it's expected the most important people with a say in the outcome of the Astrodome will be present. Those people aren't the voters. Instead, the folks with the real interest in the Astrodome are those with the Houston Texans and the Rodeo -- you know, the very people who have vetoed every legitimate plan that has been presented for the use of the Dome because it would interfere with their absolute control of the area, especially on Sundays and during the Rodeo. (The virtually useless plan defeated by the voters last November would have seen the place primarily used by the Texans and the Rodeo for their games and events -- and for Quidditch tournaments.)
"The Livestock Show and Rodeo, for example, really needs a new arena," Emmett told KUHF. "The Texans really want something done before the Super Bowl." Here's an idea. If the Rodeo really, really wants a new arena, then the Rodeo can pay for it. It's part of Rodeo Houston lore, after all, about how they built the Reliant Arena because they really, really needed an arena. They did it once, they can do it again. And if the Rodeo doesn't like that -- in the 21st century, it's apparently against public policy for any sports/concert arena to be built with anything that doesn't consist primarily of public funds -- then the Rodeo needs to give up its veto over when the facility can be used (here's a tidbit: The Aeros would probably still be in Houston, and playing at Reliant Arena, but the Rodeo refused to share the arena for a five- to six-week period in February and March.)
Emmett claims there's no plan being discussed at the meeting and that he just wants to get some viewpoints. Emmett also notes that the Texas Historical Commission Antiquities Advisory Board just forwarded a proposal to designate the Astrodome an antiquities landmark, which, were this to happen, would qualify the Dome for tax credits, which would hopefully entice private investors. And that's nice thinking, but what's been keeping the private investors away hasn't been the lack of tax credits; it's been the veto power of the Texans and the Rodeo over the use of the building. If the county really wants private investors, then it needs to remove the veto power of those two entities.
But let's get real. The Texans and the Rodeo are never going to relinquish veto power over the use of the Astrodome. Thus Emmett having another meeting of the stakeholders and concerned parties is just a farce because the only ideas/plans that matter will have to come from the Texans and the Rodeo, which is apparently never going to happen because they appear to be content with bitching and moaning about how the continued existence of the Dome hurts them while they veto every use of the building in hopes that the only solution will wind up being destruction, giving them more parking space.
The Astrodome has been doomed since that day Drayton McLane figured out how to scam the taxpayers for Minute Maid Park. It was probably doomed the day Bud Adams demanded the old scoreboard be ripped out and replaced with seats -- where in the hell was the antiquities board then? This needs to be stopped. The meetings. The stupid plans. It's time for Ed Emmett, the Texans and the Rodeo to put up a workable plan or shut up. It's time for them to finally start listening to the voters. And those voters have made it clear they're tired of the stupidity and the waste of money.