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Harris Judge Says Saving Astrodome Won’t Cost Houston 2017 Super Bowl

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Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Thursday called demolishing the Astrodome a “silly plan.”

John Lopez on Friday replied by saying Emmett should “grow a pair” and have it torn down.

So naturally, Emmett called Lopez on Friday to hash it out on-air In The Loop.

At issue is a $66 million proposal by the Houston Texans and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to tear down the historic venue to make way for green space, and what leaving the stadium intact could mean for the 2017 Super Bowl at NRG Stadium.

Supporters fear that failing to clear that space could cost Houston the Super Bowl in three years, and millions in residual revenue for city businesses.

Emmett fears wasting what he called a uniquely valuable commodity, one he believes could host a variety of money-making events, ranging from Cirque du Soleil to international cricket matches.

“The dome is paid off. There’s nothing owed on it, so it’s not sitting there incurring debt,” he told Nick and Lopez on Friday. “It’s the only room in the world that would be 350,000 square feet of column-free space. I think we need to find a way to use that asset.”

Emmett said he believes the city would regret tearing it down, eventually.

“… [W]hat happens 10 or 12 years from now, when suddenly there’s this perfect idea of what to do with this building and it’s no longer there?”

Only, last November, voters shot down a $217 million bond proposal to create funds to re-purpose the dome, indicating that the public doesn’t share that concern.

And the Texans’ involvement suggests that the NFL might prefer there not be an Astrodome three Februaries from now, when the biggest two-week television and pop culture spectacle on the planet touches down in the surrounding area.

It’s not unreasonable to think it was a contingent of Houston’s winning bid.

Emmett said he doesn’t see it that way.

“Absolutely not, ” he said. “The Super Bowl was here before and the Astrodome was sitting there. There were no negative comments about it. Nobody called my office. Nobody called the county. Probably nobody called the Texans and said, (Gosh), the Super Bowl would have been so much better if we hadn’t had the dome sitting there. So that’s not really a valid argument.”

Emmett, of course, is referring to the Super Bowl in Reliant Stadium in 2004, four years after the Astrodome was vacated by the Astros. It was declared unsuitable for occupancy in 2009.

But what matters most is what the NFL thinks, and what was agreed upon when the Texans were awarded the game last May over South Florida, which would surely have no problem taking it off the league’s hands if it were taken away from Houston.

The proposed demolition would be completed by February 2017.

Emmett said he doesn’t have a timeline for a decision.

“I don’t have a timeline, and it’s obviously not just my timeline. It’s the Harris County Commissioners Court, which is me and four county commissioners, and we all have equal votes,” he said. “All of us are still looking for what’s the best way to use this asset, and I don’t think we’re ready to say it needs to be demolished and done away with.”

Here’s to hoping Emmett becomes ready if/when the NFL makes it clear that the Super Bowl won’t be coming to Houston if the Astrodome doesn’t go.

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