Astrodome Nostalgia Syndrome (ANS) continues to bleed taxpayers

The push to continue to waste taxpayer money on the decrepit Astrodome was joined last week by none other than Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who came out in favor of a "minimalist" plan to maintain the structure (which has cost taxpayers millions of dollars to maintain as a useless eyesore) as an events venue (of no real need, especially). From the Chronicle's reporting:

Emmett said he favors a "minimalist" approach that would see the Dome's roof replaced, its seats removed, its shell intact, and grass laid down. He did not have a cost estimate for the idea.

"Anything we do to or with the Dome is going to be expensive, but it really is time to move forward," he said during the annual State of the County speech to roughly 1,100 people at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel. "I think we owe it to future generations to preserve the Dome as a gathering place for special events.

"The taxpayers have to be engaged early in the process, for it is their Dome," he continued, "but now's the time to make a decision."

Houston's major festivals could be held at the Dome, he said, rather than in a less-than-ideal spot around downtown's City Hall, where property is hard to secure at night.

"I think people would flock to it," Emmett said (Mike Morris, Emmett: Dome should be saved as festival venue, Houston Chronicle).

Why? When the Houston International Festival left its downtown home for a run out among the concrete on the outer fringes of the city core, the results were not good (and the festival shortly returned to downtown, where it belonged).

Unfortunately for taxpayers who will be asked to fund any Astrodome rehab boondoggle, this unbelievable figure made it into the area's newspaper of record:

An estimate last year put the cost of razing the structure at $128 million.

Not really. It was one of several estimates designed to fool taxpayers into thinking rehabbing the Dome wouldn't cost much more than razing it.

So let's inject a dose of reality into the cost discussion: The Dallas Morning News (that area's newspaper of record) put the bill for demolishing another venerable stadium in our state (Texas Stadium, where the Cowboys played for many years) at just under $6 million.

Are we really to believe that demolishing the Astrodome will cost roughly 21 times more than demolishing Texas Stadium?

Only if you don't think much about it.

Unfortunately, when the area newspaper of record spreads these unbelievable numbers, they take on the appearance of reality, leading sources like CultureMap to do their usual thing with grownup topics:

Consider these options:

* It would cost about $128 million to tear it down that's $128 million of public funding (which includes the existing $40 million bond debt that has to be satisfied no matter what is done).
* To repair the Dome just enough to become habitable (and able to produce at least some revenue), the Sports and Convention Corp says it would cost $30 million (though some reports say less).

Hmmm $128 million to end up with nothing versus $30 million to stop the bleeding and still have an historic building with both revenue and jobs potential.

See how that works -- a $30 million rehab proposal suddenly looks much more reasonable than spending four times as much on demolition!

Except we've seen no compelling reason to think that the demolition should cost more than the $6 million it took to demolish Texas Stadium. Incidentally, it costs taxpayers roughly $2 million per year to maintain the Astrodome as an eyesore, which means the thing could have been torn down years ago, saving taxpayers a considerable amount of money.

Back to Judge Emmett's speech from last week, via Village Voice Houston:

"Every time I drive by the corner of Main and Holcombe," he told the crowd at the Hilton Americas, "I shake my head in wonder that the Shamrock Hotel is no longer there. I hope not to do the same as an old man at the spot where the Astrodome once stood."

We understand Harris County budgets are tight right now, but we are beginning to think the County may need to authorize emergency appropriations for mental health in our area -- allocated for treatment of those afflicted with Astrodome Nostalgia Syndrome (especially those entrusted with spending our tax dollars)!

In all seriousness -- we generally appreciate Judge Emmett's leadership, but on this one, we would encourage him to take the lead as a private investor if he's so nostalgic about preserving the Astrodome. The taxpayers have already thrown enough money down that hole. It's time to pony up the cost of demolition and stop the bleeding. It was time years ago.

BLOGVERSATION: Swamplot, Campos Communications.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/07/11 08:25 AM | Print |

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