Top county official questions $105M Houston Astrodome plan
HOUSTON (AP) — The top official in Harris County has been raising questions about a $105 million redevelopment plan for the iconic Houston Astrodome that has sat vacant for nearly two decades.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo began questioning the project’s costs last week after learning that the millions of dollars in county-approved funding didn’t include money to upgrade the air-conditioning system, the Houston Chronicle reported. Hidalgo said she’s making sure the plan is fiscally responsible for the stadium that once housed the former Houston Oilers and the MLB’s Houston Astros.
It’s unclear how much it would cost to replace the aging air-conditioning system, but commissioners said estimates have been in the tens of millions.
County Engineer John Blount, who is managing the project, said air conditioning was never factored into the initial costs.
“The thought process was that further phases would bring in air conditioning,” Blount said.
County commissioners early last year approved the renovations that include raising the ground level and creating about 1,400 parking spaces, as well as upgrades so the stadium can be used for music festivals, conferences and other events.
Parking revenue, hotel occupancy taxes and county general funds are planned to cover the initial redevelopment costs of the venue next to NRG Stadium, the home of NFL’s Houston Texans.
Hidalgo’s predecessor Ed Emmett, who proposed the renovation, said the idea was to make the space usable, “but not necessarily at 72 degrees.”
“My purpose from day one was to create nine acres of indoor space protected from the weather, where it would be preferable than being outside,” Emmett said.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com