A New Plan to Pay For The Astrodome Park Discussed

We’ve been reporting for months on plans to re-purpose the Astrodome into an indoor park.  What wasn’t clear is how it will be paid for.  Now, it appears it won’t be the taxpayers.

When reporter Chris Stipes traveled with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to Germany on an Astrodome fact-finding mission back in May, The Judge thought the Astrodome indoor park proposal might go to a vote in a bond election to pay for it -- but now.  “I don't believe it's necessary,” he said.

So what changed?

The judge claims there is substantial interest from public and private investors to get involved in the plan to re-purpose the dome.  "I have been more than pleased.  The dome captures people's attention,” said Judge Emmett.

Can you tell us which investors have stepped up?  “Not yet, because we're talking to so many different people, and so many different groups."

The latest plan is to bring together the city, county, and the sports and convention corporation, among others, with private investors to form a conservancy to operate it, earning tax credits to help with the renovation.

“A conservancy similar to what operates Discovery Green, the Zoo, Herman park has a conservancy, so we can bring in some private dollars, people interested in historical aspects," said Emmett.

The Judge envisions restaurants, museums, exhibits, and entertainment venues around the dome's upper rings.  “That private conservancy is responsible for making sure it stays fresh, cutting edge."  Many had hoped whatever happens to it -- happens by the time the Super Bowl comes to Houston in early 2017.

"That would be overly optimistic," said Emmett.

And while Emmett still takes plenty of heat from those who think the dome is a lost cause, he's confident progress is being made.  Harris County Commissioners have the final say on what happens to the Astrodome.