DALLAS Voters are of two minds about issuing another $217 million of bonds to preserve the Houston Astrodome, according to recent polls.
In one poll for Houston public radio stations KUHF and KHOU conducted by Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, 45% of likely voters would support the bond issue and 35% would oppose it, with 20% undecided.
Another poll conducted by supporters of the plan to remodel the Astrodome broke evenly between supporters and opponents at 43% with the rest undecided.
Support for the “New Dome” appeared stronger in the city of Houston than it was beyond the city limits, even though all of Harris County would pay for the project through property taxes.
Former County Judge Jon Lindsay, co-chair of the "New Dome" political action committee, told the Houston Chronicle that the campaign's internal survey indicates that "we're in pretty good shape in the inner city, we're not in good shape in the unincorporated area."
Support for the preservation effort is as high among 18- to 25-year-olds as it is among 45- to 64-year-olds, according to the radio station poll.
If the county were to issue $217 million in bonds, the tax bill for a $200,000 house with a 20% homestead exemption would increase by $8, according to the Chronicle.
Harris County, the largest in Texas in population, spends more than $2 million a year insuring and maintaining the stadium, which has sat vacant since 2009.
If voters reject the bonds, the stadium is expected to be demolished.
Unlike the bonds for the current professional sports facilities, bonds for the Astrodome would be considered county debt.
The Harris County Houston Sports Authority debt for the Houston Texans’ Reliant Stadium and the Houston Astro’s Minute Maid Field is backed by hotel and car-rental taxes in the county, including Houston.
After considering 22 proposals from private investors, the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. a separate organization from the HCHSA in June recommended its own plan for preserving the world’s first air conditioned domed stadium.
The proposed “New Dome Experience” would create 350,000 square feet of exhibition space by removing all the interior seats and raising the floor to street level. Other changes include creating 400,000 square feet of plaza and green space outside the dome.
Plans envision the Astrodome as the gateway to Reliant Park, the stadium that hosts the Houston Texans of the National Football League and the 2017 Super Bowl, awarded earlier this year to Houston.
Reliant Park includes the 5,800-seat Reliant Arena, the 71,500-seat Reliant Stadium, the 706,000-square-foot Reliant Center for meetings, and what is now called the “Reliant Astrodome.”
Built for $36.5 million in 1965, the Astrodome is listed as one of America’s most endangered historic structures.
The last bonds issued specifically for the Astrodome were issued in 1997 as a $47 million refinancing designed to extend final maturity from 2003 to November 2012. However, subsequent debt was issued for improvements to the Astrodome along with other county projects.