Make The Astrodome Great Again

Patrick Creighton; Embrace the Astrodome project, it’s your only hope

Deal with it. The Astrodome project is good for the city.

Tuesday the Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to proceed with a $105M renovation of the Astrodome.  The project will raise the floor of the dome by 30 feet, creating 1400 underground parking spaces.  It will also create over 500,000 square feet of usable, rentable space to generate revenue.

The space, which is essentially eight acres of wide open weatherproof space, could be used by dozens of festivals and events (the Offshore Technology Conference had been previously given as an example).  

This is finally the step forward that the county has needed to take with the Astrodome for over a decade, and should be a happy day in the county to discuss the possibilities the building presents.

However, there are those who are against the plan for a variety of reasons.  Those complaints are short sighted, misinformed, or just flat out factually inaccurate.  Here’s why:

Complaint A: The Astrodome is an eyesore.  It should be torn down.

Whether or not you appreciate the aesthetics of the building, it cannot be torn down.  In January 2017, the Texas Historical Commission designated the Astrodome an historical landmark.  As the legal custodian of the Antiquities Code, the Texas Historical Commission has jurisdiction on the building now, and any plans for the dome must now be approved by the THC.

Tearing the building down is not a legal option.  

Complaint B: It’s a waste of money.

The Astrodome currently costs approximately $177,000 per year to ‘maintain’.  The building has been deemed unsuitable for use since 2009, therefore that $177,000 is basically being flushed down a toilet.  That is what is known as a waste of money.

The current project is an investment into renovation and future earnings.  You have to spend money to make money, right?  Well, you especially have to spend it when the building has been neglected for close to two decades.   It’s a choice of making it suitable for business to make money or leaving it there to rot and throwing away that maintenance money.  At least this alternative gives you something positive.

Complaint C: It should have went to a vote.

The reason past attempts to renovate the Astrodome went to public vote was because new debt was to be incurred in the form of bonds to finance the project.  Having the county take on new debt requires a referendum.

In this case, no new debt is being accrued.  There is no bond being used to finance the project.  There is no new tax being created to finance the project, and there is no tax increase being enacted to finance the project.  Hence, no vote was needed.

These are funds the county already has. $35M of which comes from the general fund (property taxes), $35M comes from the Hotel Occupancy Tax (thanks to all our visitors!) and the final $35M will come from the proceeds generated by the Astrodome’s rentals once it’s operational.

Complaint D: Voters already voted for it to be demolished.

This is factually inaccurate.  Voters voted down a proposal for a $217M bond to renovate the Astrodome in 2013.  There was no proposal on a ballot to tear it down.

At the time, some civic leaders feared that tearing it down would be the most likely outcome following the failure to pass the bond initiative, but no part of that measure was tearing the building down an option that was voted on, nor was it something that was committed to by the Commissioners Court.

Subsequently, the Commissioners Court came up with an alternative plan to tearing down the building which would make the building profitable.  

Also, as previously explained in Complaint A, tearing it down is no longer a legal option.

Complaint E: The money should be used for issues related to Hurricane Harvey

This is the ‘low hanging fruit’ complaint.  It’s easy to just throw Harvey into the mix on anything to draw up an emotional response, but to be completely honest, the idea that this money being spent on the Astrodome somehow is taking away money from Harvey victims, or from infrastructure repair and improvement, is not only factually inaccurate but it’s a shameful misleading of the public.

Tuesday, Gov. Abbott announced $1 billion in new funding from FEMA for Hurricane Harvey related issues, not limited to buying out flood prone homes, building new seawalls and jetties, restoring sand dunes, channeling waterways, new storm surge protection projects and more.  $500M of that money is immediately available, and the rest will be made available on the one year anniversary of the storm in last August.  The funds will be used from Rockport to Beaumont.

The unreleased funds are to be issued to those municipalities that submit requests for funding for their projects.

There is an entirely different, and much larger, piggy bank for Harvey recovery.  One does not preclude or impede the other.

Also, keep in mind, last week Congress passed a bill allocating $90 billion in relief for areas hit hard by Hurricanes (Texas and Florida).  There will be more Federal Aid making its way to Houston as well.

Considering that of the $105 million allocated for the Astrodome project, only $35 million would even be legally eligible for a relief earmark, as the Hotel Occupancy Tax cannot legally be used for Hurricane relief, and the Astrodome revenues do not yet exist.  That argument breaks down to “$35 million wasn’t allocated for Harvey related issues but $46 billion was, so, the government is doing it all wrong.”  $46 billion vs $35 million.  I’m not even going to address that with my usual high level of snark because I clearly don’t have to.

It should be pretty clear by now that this is the best possible way to move forward with the Astrodome, so lose the negativity, stop the hate, and embrace progress.  Something great could be on the horizon.  Isn’t that better than status quo?

#MAGA.  Make Astrodome Great Again!

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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