Despite pleas, commission takes no action on Astrodome

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

ALPINE, Texas - The Texas Historical Commission decided Wednesday to postpone a vote on whether the Astrodome should be granted the status of a state antiquities landmark. Several Houstonians made the nearly 600-mile trek to the town of Alpine for the commission's quarterly meeting.

"Failure today would rob my community of huge civic benefits," Chris Alexander told state commissioners during the public comment section of the meeting. "I appeal to the commission to provide expert guidance."

If the commission had granted antiquity status it would have made demolition of the Dome a much more difficult option for the county to exercise. Plus, an antiquities landmark status means state officials have the final say on any improvements to the Dome.

"The bottom line is that Texas has one of the most important, the most influential buildings in the world and it needs to be overseen by people who care about historic buildings," Cynthia Neely told commissioners.

One of the most impassioned pleas came from Dene Hofheinz, daughter of former Houston Mayor and Harris County Judge, Roy Hofheinz. Roy Hofheinz was a central figure in the Astrodome's history.

"We make history, we don't break it," said Dene Hofheinz. "We have no right to touch iconic buildings, they belong partly to those many who built them."

Roy Hofheinz' grandson also traveled from New York to Alpine to speak before the commission.

"You represent that comfort that all eyes will be drawn to the prize, that prize is a logical, successful future for the EighthWonder," said Dinn Mann.

Some commissioners were ready to grant the Dome antiquity status, but commission chairman, Michael Kreisle made a motion to postpone the vote. Kreisle said a new state law would allow for the county to offer potential investors up to 45 percent in tax credits.

Kreisle also said the constraints that come with state oversight could hinder future attempts to lure private investors.

"I'm concerned, in my mind, if we put the designation on it today that we may possibly make that deal harder to happen," said Kreisle.

Kreisle said he would be traveling to Houston in the near future to meet with county leaders and help them find a way to develop a public/private venture to repurpose the Dome.

Egardo Colon, chairman of the board for the HArris County Sports and Convention Corporation, said he was pleased with the commission's decision to postpone the vote.

"We appreciate they are willing to consider our suggestions and consider our requests," said Colon. "Hopefully, we can work together to find a solution how to repurpose the Astrodome."

The chief of staff for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Kathy Luhn also attended Wednesday's meeting.

"We think that the decision should be made in Harris County, it's an asset of Harris County and this will give the people that live there an opportunity to weigh in," said Luhn.

The Texas Historical Commission is set to take another look at possibly granting the Dome antiquities landmark status during its quarterly meeting in October.

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