The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation has spoken, and like much everything else that it has done during its existence, its great plan to save the Astrodome is a massive fail. A massive fail that, if actually put on the ballot and supported by voters, will end up costing $194 million.
The corporation unveiled its grand plan on Wednesday, and in doing so, stated that no qualified private plans had been submitted, so it had to cobble together its own proposal. A plan that essentially repeated warmed-over plans that the Corporation had tried to pass off on suckers in the past. The difference being that this time, the cost was an outrageous $194 million that, somehow, the public will be forced to fund.
Amazingly, there are sheep out there who not only think that this is a good plan, but that the costs are reasonable and doable. Those costs will be doable, of course, because taxpayers would be paying for it.
But being a doable plan doesn't make it a good plan. Creating more convention and exhibition space that will only be used during the Rodeo, the Offshore Technology Conference and the occasional Super Bowl at a cost of $194 million isn't reasonable or doable. It's idiotic. It's moronic. It's the work of imbeciles who, over past years, have also offered up proposals for turning the place into an aquarium, a movie studio, a hotel and a theme park, to name just a few ideas.
The plan's also the work of the fine folks with the Texans and the Rodeo, those nice people who have vetoed just about every reasonable and doable plan for the Dome. And who made sure poison pill provisions were included that essentially make the Dome worthless to anybody who hopes to make money off of it. Those poison pill provisions being found in a 2001 agreement in which the Texans and the Rodeo are protected against any possible harm to their revenue streams. The provisions also guarantee the Texans exclusive access to all Reliant parking spaces on game days and give the Rodeo exclusive access to the facility for three weeks during the rodeo.
But this corporation plan gets the backing of the Rodeo because it resembles one they helped to craft last year. So while this $194 million plan would be funded by taxpayers who would get virtually no use out of it, the Rodeo would once again get to dictate the use of a building that would be essentially useless for 49 weeks a year because the Rodeo poison pill provisions make the use of the Dome worthless to just about any commercial entity unless those massive hotels or amusement parks or aquariums want to shut down during spring break and on Sundays.
Here's a novel idea: If the Texans and the Rodeo want the damn exclusive use of this space, and if this is a Rodeo-approved plan, then why in the hell don't they pay the $194 million that'll be needed for this boondoggle? It's the Rodeo's demand of three weeks of exclusive use that has kept any other plan from being viable. It's the Texans' whining over parking that has helped to torpedo other uses. Make them actually have to pay for something for once instead of constantly dining off of the teat of taxpayers
Then again, this whole fiasco has never been about saving or refurbishing the Dome. It's always been about saving face. About finding some way to get cowards on Commissioners Court off of the hook. Tear it down? Well, only if there are no other options. Rebuilding it with taxpayer funds so as to guarantee the revenue streams of the Texans and the Rodeo, well, if that's the only option. And if this plan is put on the ballot and the voters stupidly support it, then how can the Commissioners be blamed, because it's what the public wants.
The Dome is an architectural wonder that deserves much better than what the county's not-so-benign neglect has delivered. Unlike its next-door neighbor, the Dome is a building with character and personality. It defines a Houston from a past era, a Houston that was forward-thinking and was on the leading edge of the space race. But Houston's now like Reliant Stadium, a stale, sterile rip-off of ideas generated by outsiders who care less about Houston's past, present or future -- much like Minute Maid Park is just a poor imitation of many things done so much better.
If any building should be demolished to make way for parking it should be Reliant Stadium. If there's any body of people who should be replaced along with Reliant Stadium, it's the worthless fools who make up the Commissioners Court, who are more concerned with reelection than they are with doing what's right by the Astrodome and with the citizens of Harris County.
It's doubtful that Commissioners Court reads this blog, but if they do, please say no to this abomination of a plan that is set to do nothing more than rip off taxpayers while continuing to enrich the Texans and the Rodeo. Let's defund the damn Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation.
And while this opinion might not be the popular one, I urge this: If somehow this supreme folly ends up on the ballot, please vote no.
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