One Last Shot at Astrodome by Foes

The Astrodome and NRG Stadium

The Astrodome and NRG Stadium
“Sometimes Proximity Breeds Contempt”

We can’t prove it, but the last time a 100% pure hearted politician stepped forward to save the taxpayers some money at the last minute was that time back in 1939, when young first term Congressman Jefferson Smith stepped forward to stop a complex a group of other congressmen and their developer friends from stealing land from a national boys’ club that had been doing the kids a lot of good until its existence got in the way of a private enterprise/political boss needed the property for a lucrative commercial project that would make a smaller group of investors and representatives even richer than they already were at the time of the scheme’s conception.

The above plot served as the life force of the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

The chicanery didn’t work because (1) the story was fictional, written for a movie crowd; (2) it was written intentionally for the American culture that still feasted in 1939 on the idea that the “good guys” always defeat the “bad guys” near “The End”;  and (3) the movie producers had cast Jimmy Stewart as the idealistic “too good for his own good” political champion of the people. He was believable in that title role at the tale end of the Great Depression era. All naivete and honesty and patriotism rolled into one on-his-own warrior voice of the people.

Now you need to read about this last gap attempt by State Senator John Whitmire to get some legislation passed in Austin very soon that could derail the current, sound plan for preserving the Astrodome as the treasured architectural and performance venue for all the right and most feasible economic reasons. Then please come back here for a summary of our thoughts in this matter – and some suggestions for what each of us need to do to fight back:

Whitmire wants a law passed that would take away Harris County’s right to use the $105 million dollars that already have been approved by Commissioners’ Court for use in the current restoration project until another referendum on whether or not the public wants to approve this money for the Astrodome is held. Such a step is both spurious and unneeded. The County has approved the $105 million dollars from existing funds, in accordance with the law, and they have done so upon a groundswell of preservationist group and popular citizen support – support that includes two new highly respected designations of the Astrodome as an historical landmark building  – and with assurance that further need for further money from the County shall be unnecessary.

So, what is it with John Whitmire? And who is with him, or behind him, in this expressed Lone Ranger effort to take one last wildly egregious shot at killing the preservation of the Astrodome before the current successfully supported and legal plan is carried out?

Let’s assume two conclusions about the answers to these questions: (1) Let’s assume that State Senator John Whitmire is not Jimmy Stewart playing U.S. Rep. Jefferson Smith in the 1939 movies, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”; and (2) That we may never know for sure who might have enough personal business interest to propose, support, or back this late move by Whitmire to kill the Astrodome, but that we probably wouldn’t have to look too far to find the names and businesses located nearby that could stand to benefit most by both the Astrodome’s demise and physical disappearance as an actual “neighbor.”

For names and businesses of whom we have in mind, get a pictorial map and a list of owners doing business there and do the pristinely logical remaining identification work yourselves. – Round up the usual suspects. Not as the accused in this matter, but as possibly active partners with Whitmire, for whatever agreed upon variable advantages these alliances bring to all involved , in not simply turning the Astrodome into additional parking space, but as a famous Houston brand victory for tomorrow over yesterday, for expedience over history, and for richer developers over richer preserved enlightenment of “who we’ve been all these years as the City of Houston” through our special architectural sites.

In brief, whether it is intended or not, victory over the survival of the Astrodome in any physical form is a serious matter of increasing the brand-space for whatever else is going on in the same geographic proximity.

Who knows? Houston may soon need that Astrodome space to build a new football venue that is attractive to the NFL as a 2022 Super Bowl site. After all, NRG Stadium will be 22 years old by 2022, and probably will need replacement by then, if Houston is expected to compete with all the newer, fresher venues for the 2022 Super Bowl.

In fact, a recent Houston Chronicle article suggested that any currently needed renovation to NRG would take in excess of $100 million dollars. Wonder if anybody with any itch to scratch in that need for a NRG remodeling job for the sake of future Super Bowl prettiness and modernity had any thoughts at all along the lines of “if we could get our hands on that money that the county plans to spend on the Astrodome, we’d be in a whole lot better shape going forward. – If only that Astrodome money were free for the taking.”

Can’t imagine who might think that way about a County decision that’s already been settled, but you don’t have to be a math major to see that the kind of money that’s been approved for the Astrodome rehabilitation is pretty darn close to what an undeveloped NRG Stadium upgrade might also require for its own face lifts.

What can Astrodome rehabilitation supporters now do?

What can you do to say NO in protest to State Senator John Whitmire and his attempts to pass legislation that would block the current Astrodome (already funded/with no further tax money needed) plan?

Call his office at 713.864.8701 and make your voice known in your own way. – The grand old dame of stadium architecture fame and countless major Houston event moments needs your help! So please don’t put it off. Act quickly. And decisively.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, and Primary Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle


 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


4 Responses to “One Last Shot at Astrodome by Foes”

  1. materene Says:

    There is no honor among thieves. The dome will be gone one day real soon. Just like every other worthwhile landmark from our era. It has always been that way like it or not and understanding what we now have for leaders is about as bad as it has ever been. Being a politician pays very well now.

  2. David Munger Says:

    Buff Stadium, Colt Stadium, Astro World, Playland Park,Crystal Swimming Pool, Westbury Square, Peppermint Park. If you don’t recognize these venues then you aren’t from Houston or too young to know them. My point is anything that is used or old in Houston or Harris County…..TEAR IT DOWN…..During my 67 years in this City we have heard Oops too many times. There won’t be any do overs if this becomes an Oops.

  3. shinerbock80 Says:

    As Bill mentions, there is a plan in place already approved by County Commissioners Court (5-0, I might add) to repurpose the Dome with 1400 revenue producing parking spaces below grade level. It would also create the infrastructure needed to add attractions above ground level with private funds. The $105 million is split into thirds from three existing sources: hotel tax, parking fund and general funds. The parking revenue itself will offset some of that draw down. The county has regularly done this before. We spent $90 million in precisely this same fashion to redo the grand 1910 County Courthouse, for example, and that is now a showplace and tourist attraction in addition to housing our appeals courts. There was not a peep heard from anyone, perhaps because there were no greedy neighbors who wanted to nudge their way into the public trough.

    Furthermore, as much as the history of what happened inside the Dome is important to many of us, that is NOT the reason to do this. The Astrodome is a billion dollar plus asset that is PAID FOR. We own it. To pay the estimated $30-50 million to demolish it only to end up with a blank space is flatly insane. In an architectural sense, this is one of the most pioneering buildings on the entire planet. To discard it for nothing, also at enormous taxpayer expense, serves only the greedy and unimaginative. The spirit embodied by Judge Hofheinz that built the Dome over 50 year ago is the spirit driving hundreds of very smart, innovative folks today who have developed a solid plan to turn it into another showplace for our county and city.

    Please call Sen Whitmire’s office at 713.864.8701 to voice your displeasure over his bill and your support for increasing the value of an existing county asset. And tell him that state officials should butt out of local business, especially to serve the interest of a few.

  4. Mark W Says:

    Amen to you, Shinerbock!

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