Reporting Nate Griffin
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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Based on Houston’s successful run as host of Super Bowl XLVIII back in 2004, a positive decision should come from the NFL with relative ease. With former Secretary of State, James Baker, and Camden Properties Chairman and CEO “Ric” Campo leading the way, the leadership structure to win the bid is in place. However, also currently in place behind Reliant Stadium is a structure that could hurt Houston’s chances – the Astrodome.
History was made in 1965 when the doors opened to this vast state-of-the-art sports playpen coined the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” So many great historical events took place in this domed multi-purpose facility. During its time, the Astrodome was the place to be to witness those great moments.
If walls could talk and take you back into history a bit, those Astrodome walls would probably start with the Houston Astros – New York Yankees 1965 exhibition game that saw late Hall of Fame Yankee great, Mickey Mantle, hit the first home run. It’s even possible that those same walls might prefer to give details of every punch thrown between boxing’s greatest – Muhammed Ali, versus one Cleveland Williams back in 1966.
However, the events that happened then and in later years are chronicled memories now. Back in 2005, the Astrodome served as home to victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to record, all refugees were relocated to other locales by mid-September of 2005. Last reports have the Astrodome serving as home to rats which is a sad commentary for such a historical landmark.
OTHER STADIUM EXAMPLES
There has been lots of talk about what exactly to do with the structure. There’s little doubt that this is a tough decision. But, it also seems as though there’s not one city leader willing to be the first to suggest tearing down the Astrodome. That’s understandable for fear of possible public backlash. However, should decision makers choose to site other cities which had to make a similar decision, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or Indianapolis, Indiana might not be bad examples.
The RCA Dome was home to the Indianapolis Colts from 1984-2007. It was demolished in December 2008 as part of a project to expand the attached convention center.
Three Rivers Stadium was also a multi-purpose stadium and home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1970-2000. Three Rivers was demolished in 2001. Seemingly, the decision makers in both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis understood the pros and cons of tearing down such structures. But, they also seemingly understood that the benefits outweighed the liabilities.
One such benefit needed to win the bid is the attractiveness of Reliant Park. Houston Texans owner, Bob McNair, fully understands that having an attractive venue could help spawn a positive decision.
“I think the whole park is important. In other words, the appearance of the whole park is important. And so, that’s part of it. So, it would make our bid more attractive. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
WHERE IS THE VALUE
Economic value is a key component of most financial decisions. Is there more value in restoring and maintaining the Astrodome for purposes unknown or is there more value in tearing it down, making the area more attractive, and using the space for other means necessary, such as entertainment, rodeo, etc.?
“I know the rodeo needs more space,” says McNair. “They need more parking and certainly we could use it also. So, we have to look at the economics of it – what it will cost to make these changes – whether you bring it down, or what you do with it. But, it’s very expensive to go back in and try to restore it. It’s just a very, very expensive prospect.”
Take into consideration, per reports, that the 2004 Super Bowl generated more than $350 million and many expansion and renewal projects for the City of Houston. McNair knows that City officials will need to make a decision more sooner than later if Houston is going to have any chance of realizing an economic impact.
“That’s their decision”, says McNair. “I know everyone has been looking for economic value and so far no one has come up with anything. So, at some point in time, you’re going to have to decide what you’re going to do with it if it’s not going to be an active facility.”
WHAT MAKES SENSE
It’s quite obvious that Bob McNair is very thoughtful and logical which speaks to his success in business and as an NFL owner. However, he, other leaders, and the City of Houston are interested in bringing a second Super Bowl, since 2004, to the Space City. He has a pretty good idea of how to make that happen. But, a historical landmark could be lost in the process.
When asked whether or not the Astrodome should be torn down, McNair offered a direct and thoughtful response.
“No – I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that you never know what might be the difference in your bid and we should just do everything we can to make our bid as attractive as possible – and that includes making Reliant Park as attractive as possible.”
It’s a tough decision to make. As one who covered many events in the Astrodome, the stance many have taken in not tearing it down for historical value is understood. However, McNair also stated economic value has yet to be determined. Compare that to what the City of Houston generated during the Super Bowl in 2004 and the decision to tear down or restore should come quickly.
There are no guarantees even if the Astrodome is demolished. But chances of securing the 2017 Super Bowl could be greatly heightened should the decision be to implode.