Astrodome still in limbo

January 23, 2008 10:01:04 PM PST
For years, you've waited to see what will happen with the Eighth Wonder of the World. And you could be waiting longer. Time is up for the group with exclusive rights to re-develop the Astrodome, opening up the possibility of a new deal

Seven years after the Astros last game there, the Astrodome still sits empty and for most of the year unused.

Plans to redevelop it into an upscale convention hotel have been in the works for four years now. Breaking ground, though, is nowhere in sight.

At the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation's board meeting today, County Judge Ed Emmett was clear.

"I think we're in a circumstance where this has been going on for years," said Emmett. "There's no reason to grant this extension."

Time's up for the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation, the entity that won exclusive rights to transforming the Eighth Wonder of the World. And the sports corporation agreed.

Now ARC will soon lose exclusive rights to the Astrodome deal. They can still proceed and will.

"It's a bump in the road and we've had bumps in the road in the past," said John Clanton with the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation.

CEO John Clanton claims the county wanted the extension, not ARC. He says they've never missed a deadline and already have the $450 million to finance the deal. If true, Judge Emmett says the county has seen nothing.

"If they're really serious about this they need to get their financing and come to us with a package," said Emmett.

Wednesday's development could mean county officials go back to the drawing board of four years ago and re-open the proposal process. And this time, Reliant's biggest tenants who have been opposed to the current project may be part of that game.

"We're confident some people are going to step forward and the rodeo and Texans may be part of that," said Leroy Shafer of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Meantime, the Dome sits, costing $3.5 million a year to operate and keeping dreams of a rebirth alive.

The people who want to turn the world-famous Astrodome into a hotel hope to get a big tax break from the government.

The government approved an application for historic rehabilitation tax credits submitted by the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation. The corporation has proposed turning the Dome into a convention center hotel. The tax credits are an integral part of the corporations financing package.

In 2006, the National Park Service decided that the Dome is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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