The "new" Astrodome not a done deal yet

The proposal calls for turning the Dome into a 350,000 square foot exhibit space that can accommodate any type of event or conference

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Harris County commissioners have ordered further study of a proposal to turn the Astrodome into a massive exhibit space.

The idea was unveiled last week by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation and formally presented to county commissioners on Tuesday.

"Taxpayers need to know exactly what's involved," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who has already gone on record stating he thinks this is a "perfect solution" for the aging icon.

"In order to vote you have to know exactly what you're dealing with in terms of the tax rate and also just the timing and the legality of it," Judge Emmett said.

County commissioners have to vote to formally accept this proposal before it can move forward.

Commissioners said no vote will take place until this proposal is studied by the County Budget Office, the county attorney and county engineers.

Emmett said this process should take about a month to complete.

The proposal calls for turning the Dome into a 350,000 square foot exhibit space that can accommodate any type of event orĀ conference and be used for fan experiences during the Final Four tournament and Super Bowl.

Sports Corporation officials estimate the plan will cost $194 million and take 30 months of construction to complete.

While Emmett has been supportive of this proposal, others are reserved in their judgment.

"I'm not going to comment just yet until we get all the evidence in," said Commissioner R. Jack Cagle.

If this proposal is accepted by commissioners then voters will still have to decide whether they want the county to borrow the money needed to re-purpose the Dome.

Voters could decide the issue as early as November.

Commissioners have until between August 10 andĀ 25 to formally accept the plan and place it on the November ballot.

"I would like to see this happen sooner rather than later," said Emmett.

"If the plan passes Commissioners' Court and if the plan is approved by the voters then we can capture the revenue that would come from the Final Four and the Super Bowl," said Emmett.

Chairman of the Sports Corporation Board, Edgar Colon, said he is already planning on "educating" the community about this proposal for the Dome in anticipation of a November referendum.

"We are obviously ready to do town hall meetings and go out to the community," said Colon.

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