Even as Houston celebrates its successful Super Bowl LI bid, the Astrodome is rearing its ugly or iconic (depending on your point of view) head.
At a press conference on the eighth floor of swanky One Park Place — the better to look over Discovery Green and swoon at the center of what's being dubbed Super Bowl El Centro by the local organizing committee — Harris County Judge Ed Emmett found himself fielding more questions about the old dome than the big game.
But Emmett insists they really have nothing to do with each — no matter what everyone else thinks.
"We're not short on good ideas for the Dome. We're short of a good set of ideas with money."
"This Super Bowl bid and the Astrodome are two totally separate issues," Emmett said. "They are not connected at all."
Emmett maintains that landing the Super Bowl does not increase the urgency to find an Astrodome solution because a clear timeline is already in place. The deadline for developer proposals for the dome is still a hardline June 10 — as CultureMap's Whitney Radley first reported back on April 17. But at the Super Bowl presser, Emmett was quick to point out that a good idea in this open proposal window will not mean anything if it comes without financing.
"We're not short on good ideas for the Dome," Emmett said. "We're short of a good set of ideas with money."
In other words, that proposal from the University of Houston grad student who wants to strip the Astrodome to its skeleton and put a park underneath it — and any other ideas like it — will not even be considered without a developer stepping forward with the financing for such a plan.
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation has until June 25 to submit its own public use ideas. Then, the five-person Harris County Commissioner's Court — which Emmett heads — will consider the plans and likely eventually put an option up for public vote.
"I do think the sports county commissioners will come forward with a definite plan," Emmett said. Emmett insists that it should all occur within "the next year, two years" — meaning the Astrodome's future would be put in motion in plenty of time to have it repurposed or demolished before Super Bowl 51 rolls around. Of course, Emmett will tell you that timeline isn't connected.
Houston's Super Bowl bid chairman Ric Campo did not mention the Astrodome in the official bid presentation and he had a quick answer for any NFL officials who questioned him about it. "When the Super Bowl was here in 2004, the Astrodome was there," Campo said, "and we put on a great event then."
Of course, no one wants the Astrodome to be just sitting there in disrepair again in 2017.
Want more on the debate? Read the contrasting viewpoints of CultureMap network news director Chris Baldwin's column on the need to tear down the Astrodome and CultureMap contributor James Glassman's plea to save what he calls "Houston's Eiffel Tower" at all costs.