DALLAS -- Houston Oilers Owner Bud Adams has demanded that Houston city officials decide whether they are interested in helping finance a $245 million downtown domed stadium within two months, or the foot. ball team will step up negotiations with a northern suburb, an executive said Friday.
"We are running out of time," said Mike McClure, an Oilers vice president "If we don't get an indication within the next two months, it will be impossible to build the stadium in downtown Houston and meet our timetable. We will seriously consider other options."
McClure said the 0tiers need to get a new domed stadium built by the end of 1997, when their lease expires at the 29-year-old Houston Astrodome, which the team says has inadequate seating and scheduling, and in time to convince the National Football League to h01d the 1999 Super Bowl in Houston.
With that timetable in mind, McClure said the Oilers will begin serious negotiations in mid-September with Montgomery County, north of Houston, where officials have shown interest in committing financing, if Houston leaders don't meet their deadline. The Oilers have been discussing a new stadium with Houston city officials for about one year.
Mayor Bob Lanier "hasn't put the program on the front burner, and sometimes you have to yell a little louder," McClure said.
However, a Lanier spokesman said the mayor is supportive of the project, "but he is not willing to spend taxpayer money on the stadium."
Spokesman Robert Frelow said the mayor is waiting for the Oilers to present a financial plan with specifics on what the city needs to contribute.
Last month, the Oilers presented some financing options to the city for the 75,000-seat stadium, which could be used for football, basketball, and other sports events as well as entertainment and conventions.
The stadium, which would be built near the city's convention center in the eastern part of the main business district, could be funded through a combination of bonds supported by leases, earmarked taxes, project revenues, parking, and other sources, Oiler officials said.
"We have presented a number of options that don't affect ad valorem and sales taxes," McClure said.
Robert Randolph, the Oilers bond attorney and a partner at Vinson & Elkins in Houston, said preliminary studies indicate that the stadium could pay for itself through a combination of lease purchase, sales tax, revenue, and other types of bonds, although full economic evaluations have not been commissioned.
About $85 million was expected to come directly from sports team leases from the Oilers and possibly the Houston Rockets, as well as from suite sales and user fees.
In addition, revenues of about $12 million annually to pay debt service on about $160 million of bonds could be generated in several ways.
Motorists could be charged $5 to park downtown when events are held at the stadium, and increased hotel taxes and revenues could be generated. The debt also could be repaid using fees from additional convention center space and higher city tax collections that would be generated by the project.
The new stadium is predicted to generate $167 million in direct spending in the local economy each year and to bring more than three million visitors to Houston.
"We are trying to put together all the economic benefits that will flow to the various interests and say, 'This stadium will pay for itself,'" Randolph said. Now, "we want a commitment that the city would apply these sources and aid and assist in underwriting them," he said.
However, some industry sources said more details are needed on the financing plan before the project's feasibility can be determined. Others have questioned whether Houston needs another domed stadium.
McClure disagrees. He said the existing Astrodome stadium is inadequate because of limited, poor-quality seating for football, and serious scheduling problems. It is not competitive for large events, such as the Super Bowl, he said.
"The days of the shared baseballfootball stadiums are quickly coming to an end," he said. "This stadium would enable the Oilers to compete with 20 other football-only facilities."
According to the Oilers' literature, by the year 2000 the Astrodome will be one of only five stadiums to host both a professional baseball and football franchise because of the incompatibility of playing the two sports in a single stadium.
The Oilers had planned to share the stadium with the Houston Rockets basketball team, but some obstacles have emerged.
Late last month, Rockets' owner Les Alexander said he would try to build his own sports arena. Alexander told the Houston Chronicle that he is working out an agreement to privately construct a $90 million to $150 million arena linked to the possibility he might become involved in a downtown casino if the state legislature approves such gambling.
The Oilers have come up with their own strategy. They plan to take Lanier and some interested city council members on a whirlwind tour of sports stadiums in three cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, and Indianapolis, where downtown stadiums have revitalized the economy.
Meantime, other Texas cities also are planning sports arenas. In Dallas, city officials are planning to build an arena and could consider a domed stadium to keep sports teams from moving to the suburbs.