Say No to Upgrades to NRG Stadium

With Super Bowl LI behind us, we are hearing that NRG Stadium needs a major upgrade if Houston is to host another major sporting event. Even though the stadium is only fifteen years old, we are being told that it is obsolete. The Chronicle reports:

“There’s a difference between being architecturally obsolete and being obsolete from a sports-business and revenue-producing perspective,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. “The fans, the taxpayers, look at (a) stadium and say, ‘Well, it’s only 10 years old or it’s only 20 years old.’ But it in fact is really generations behind.”

If NRG is obsolete from a sports-business perspective, then why shouldn’t those who are in the sports business pay for any desired upgrades?

The two primary users of NRG are the Houston Texans football team and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It’s doubtful that the rodeo will threaten to go elsewhere if the upgrades aren’t provided, but we can’t say the same about the Texans.

For decades, professional sports teams have extorted cities across the nation to build taxpayer funded sports stadiums. If a city refuses, the owners take their ball to another city that is more than happy to play the game.

Those who are promoting the upgrades talk about the value to the community.

“Best-in-class facilities are an essential component of a bid for the Super Bowl or any other high-profile sporting event,” Texans president Jamey Rootes said. “These are ultra-competitive processes, and it is critical that NRG Stadium remains state of the art if we want to be considered a viable candidate for these major sporting events that create such enormous tangible and intangible value for our community.”

Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, echoed that sentiment:

“In order for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to sustain its community impact through scholarships, grants and other educational opportunities for Texas youth, it is important that this facility remain on the forefront with regard to presentation capability and fan comfort,” Cowley said.

But what about those who will foot the bill—individual taxpayers? Few people seem to have any concern for them, and that isn’t surprising. It’s all about the community, and the individual must do his “fair share,” whether he wants to or not.

While debate over upgrades to NRG is just beginning, debate over the fate of its next door neighbor—The Astrodome—has been waging to years. Again, the debate shows little concern for individual taxpayers.

Slowly but steadily, Houston is becoming just like other cities. Land-use regulations and “green” building codes increasingly slow development (see the Ashby High Rise as one example). Shoving light rail down our throats is another example.

Houston’s greatness was the result of individuals who rejected the conventional wisdom and blazed a new trail. It’s time for Houston to quit trying to be like other cities and tell the owners of sports teams that if they want a new stadium, they are welcome to build it.

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