State senator challenges Astrodome revitalization plan

The Harris County Commissioners Court has approved a new plan to breathe life back into the Astrodome but State Senator John Whitmire wants to let voters decide.

HOUSTON - A new bill could throw a wrench in Harris County’s plans to revitalize the 8th Wonder of the World.

On Friday, State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) told KHOU 11 he'll file a bill next week requiring Harris County voters to approve the county’s Astrodome revitalization plan first.

In September 2016, County Commissioners passed a $105 million plan to raise the Astrodome floor to street level, build 1,400 parking spaces underneath it, and open up more than eight acres for festivals and major events like Rodeo Houston and the Offshore Technology Conference.

However, Sen. Whitmire says voters already shot down a $217 million bond package to remodel the Astrodome back in 2013.

He also believes the tax dollars needed to pay for the current plan are needed in other places.

"We need that money to take care of our other venues,” said Sen. Whitmire. “NRG stadium, Minute Maid, Dynamo, and Toyota all need those funds for maintenance and bonded indebtedness. And we had a commitment when I started the sports authority in ‘98 that we would never use property taxes on our sports facilities."

On Friday afternoon, County Judge Ed Emmett, who has championed re-purposing The Dome for years, released the following statement:

“It’s frustrating that while the Astrodome stood vacant for more than 15 years, very few people stepped forward to offer real solutions. But now that we on Commissioners Court have finally arrived at a way to preserve the Dome as a revenue-generating asset for the people of Harris County, Sen. Whitmire’s legislation risks derailing that solution.

The Astrodome is a paid-for asset that needs to be used for the benefit of the overall NRG Park complex. Creating more than eight acres of covered usable space along with 1,400 indoor parking spaces will generate revenue that will allow the county to maintain NRG Stadium and the rest of the complex.”
 

(© 2017 KHOU)


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