Plans for Astrodome go forward after bill dies

HOUSTON – A plan to turn the Astrodome into a revenue generator for the county can move ahead in earnest now that a potential roadblock has been cleared.

That roadblock came in the form of a proposed law filed by State Sen. John Whitmire.

Harris County Commissioners came up with a plan to spend $105 million to raise the Dome's floor; creating nine acres of enclosed space and an underground parking garage.

Commissioners said fees collected from parking and renting the inside of the Dome would then be used to offset the costs of upgrading and maintaining NRG Park as a whole.

“In order to do that we either have to use property tax or we have to generate revenue in NRG Park and the Dome is the revenue generator,” County Judge Ed Emmett said. “The (Offshore Technology Conference), and the auto show and the boat show and all the other festivals and gatherings that have already said, 'When it's going to be ready, we can we start renting that nine acres?'”

However, Whitmire filed a bill that would force the county to get voter approval before spending any money on the Dome.

“It's a dream and you shouldn't spend taxpayer dollars on a dream,” Whitmire said.

Whitmire's bill sailed through the Senate, but hit a brick wall in the House.