Chron scrutinizes bogus Dome demolition numbers; Bureaucrats start to back away from same

Experts say Astrodome demolition price tag seems high – Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle

Willie Loston, executive director of the Sports Corp., said the estimated cost of [Astrodome] demolition is lower than that produced by a similar study two years ago, but declined to say the new number before members of Commissioners Court are informed.

The 2010 study estimated the cost of demolition at $78 million, including $10 million for asbestos removal and $10 million to put a “plaza” on the site after demolition.

[snip]

Demolition experts said the county’s estimate sounds high. Issues such as the substructure and proximity to other buildings, they said, are common with many demolition jobs.

Cincinnati’s Cinergy Field and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium were blown up within feet of the new parks that replaced them, for example.

“Wow,” said Mike Taylor, executive director of the National Association of Demolition Contractors, when told of the estimate. “I should go back in the business if they’re going to give me $78 million to bring that down. I know my boots are somewhere.”

Mike Dokell, demolition division manager for Houston-based Cherry Demolition, and Jim Redyke, of Tulsa-based Dykon Explosive Demolition Corp., agreed.

“I think their estimate includes a lot of contingencies and a lot of worst-case scenarios and when they go out for bid they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Dokell said. “The 78 (million) number includes a lot of things a demo guy is typically not going to include.”

We don’t doubt Mr. Dokell’s expertise at demolition, but what he probably does not understand is that this earlier “estimate” was not a demolition document. Rather, we would submit it was a Houston Way political document that greatly inflated the cost of demolition so that when compared to the two redevelopment/boondoggle options apparently favored by certain interests, it would give pols cover to argue that it would be better to preserve SOMETHING rather than spend nearly as much money just to eliminate the current eyesore.

Roughly thirteen months ago, we pointed out of all this on the little blog, and also shared our concerns with reporter Mike Morris, who wrote a followup blog post that got Harris County Sports & Convention Corp executive/bureaucrat Willie Loston to elaborate a bit more on the cost “estimate.”

A year later, it’s good that the area newspaper of record decided to push the people associated with the earlier ridiculous “estimate” and get the opinions of some actual experts in the field. It’s surely just coincidence that this additional media scrutiny of unbelievable demolition numbers now has led to officials backtracking, and promising a lower number in their next political document! They surely were not expecting all that much media curiosity about their earlier bogus demolition numbers.

Here’s hoping the next set of numbers is more reflective of reality, because it’s well past time to get on with the demolition effort.


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About Kevin Whited