Harris County replaces unused NRG Arena tent hospital with new facility for potential COVID-19 surge


HOUSTON – The controversial ‘Tent Hospital’ that was assembled, sat unused and then deconstructed, is being replaced with another facility inside NRG Arena.

“We can do it at a cost of about $200,000 a month,” Hidalgo told KPRC 2 Investigates Thursday.

The price tag is to keep the makeshift 150-bed facility in a state of readiness, Hidalgo said. The site will not be activated unless more hospital beds are needed.

If the medical facility, which would not have private bathrooms, is activated in the event of a second COVID-19 surge, the cost would jump to about $1.5 million per month, Hidalgo said.

Air filtration in the section of NRG Arena, where the facility is located, has been upgraded to accommodate patients.

Hidalgo said that the new facility is more cost-effective than the old temporary hospital and will be managed by Harris County instead of a third-party contractor.

Critics were already skeptical about the need for such a facility.

“It really doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point. When I hear people talk about ‘in case there’s a second surge,’ last time I checked, we didn’t have the first surge,” KPRC2 Analyst Ed Emmett said.

Emmett formerly held Hidalgo’s job.

“We’re making sure the costs are as low as possible, but ultimately it’s something we have to have in our community to make sure we’re protecting for a contingency that has happened elsewhere and may well happen here,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said the costs for both the new and old facilities are covered 100% with federal funds: 75% from FEMA and 25% CARES Act funding.

After the story aired Thursday, a staff member in County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office corrected a point he made earlier in the day:

”I looked further into the details I wanted to clarify that the proposed site for this will be one of the arena halls - not the stadium or the center.," Rafael Lemaitre said.