Decision On Astrodome Months Away, Judge Emmett Leans Toward Keeping It

The Harris County Commission could have all the information it needs by the end of the summer to figure out what should be done with the Astrodome. But it may be months after that before voters are asked whether they're willing to foot the bill to tear down the dome, or pay even more to give it a new lease on life as public venue.

Judge Emmett realizes what a sensitive political subject the Astrodome can be.

"However we handle hurricanes, however we handle tax rates — whatever else we do, county commissioners' court will probably be judged on what they do with the Astrodome by a lot of people more than anything else."

Converting the Dome into something that would attract crowds and money could cost between $300 and $500 million.  Harris County would have to get voters to approve bonds to come up with that kind of cash.  Just tearing it down would come with a price tag of $120 million. And about a quarter of that would go toward paying off the remaining bonds.  Today on Morning Edition, Judge Emmett said he's waiting to hear what the consultants recommend.  But he would personally like to see the Astrodome renovated with a cleaned-out, open-air interior.

"(The) Livestock Show and Rodeo then could use it while they're having their run.  Would that pay for the annual upkeep of the Dome?  Probably not.  But it would preserve it, then, for somebody to come up with the perfect idea, maybe later on down the road."

Judge Emmett says one of the ideas he hears about from the public most often is converting the Dome to a casino. But that would require a change in state law to allow casino gambling.

 

For more, listen to KUHF Conversations: Harris Co. Judge Ed Emmett.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...