Officials review plans to turn Dome into hotel

February 16, 2008 5:46:22 PM PST
Harris County officials continue to discuss whether they should pursue plans to convert the Astrodome, once known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, into a hotel. According to a report by a consulting firm hired by a company looking to transform the first domed stadium into a 1,300-room convention hotel, the facility could net nearly $50 million annually four years after opening.

A consulting firm hired by the county, Convention Sports & Leisure, found the study conformed with analyses of financial prospects for large hotels.

The studies were given to Commissioners Court as it prepares to discuss next week whether the county should continue pursuing the hotel plan.

The Astrodome, which opened in 1965, was long home to baseball's Astros, the NFL's Oilers and the Houston Livestock Show.

The Astros now play in Minute Maid Park. The Houston Texans and the livestock show have a new home at Reliant Stadium, built next to the Astrodome.

Thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees from New Orleans used the Astrodome as shelter two years ago.

County Judge Ed Emmett wants to know if Astrodome Redevelopment Co., working on the hotel plan, can secure financing for the $450 million project.

Astrodome Redevelopment president Scott Hanson has told the county the company had a letter of intent from a bank saying it would lend $360 million for the project, but that agreement expired in October.

Since then, the economy has worsened, and some banks have tightened lending practices, Hanson said.

Astrodome Redevelopment still can obtain financing, but lenders may ask that the county rebate its share of hotel occupancy taxes generated by the hotel to the developers, Hanson said.

Emmett said such a request would not necessarily end the hotel plan.

The Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are against turning the Astrodome into a hotel, saying it would hurt their operations and lessen their revenues.

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