Report: Astros, County Strike Stadium DealAP , Associated Press
Sep. 14, 1996 1:12 AM ET
HOUSTON (AP) _ The Houston Astros have struck a deal with city and county officials that would put the team in a new downtown stadium and keep it there for 30 years, a television station reported Friday night.
Houston station KRIV, citing unidentified sources, said the two sides agreed on a financing package Friday night. The package would fund a new stadium in downtown Houston.
Pending a number of issues, including legislative approval of a stadium funding mechanism, the Astros would be tied to the city and the stadium for 30 years, the station reported.
The deal must still be approved by Harris County commissioners, the Houston City Council, and by Harris County voters in a November referendum. Under the agreement, the stadium must be built by the year 2000, KRIV said.
The city and county have been negotiating for weeks with Astros owner Drayton McLane and Astrodome USA, the team's parent company.
Earlier Friday, McLane said he planned to ask baseball owners for permission to negotiate with other cities if he didn't come up with an agreement this weekend.
``We made a lot of progress in the last two days, so we hope we could reach some agreement in the next three days,'' McLane said in a telephone interview from Fort Worth. ``I'm very confident that we can. But if we can't, we would move forward.''
The Houston Chronicle reported Friday that McLane wanted about $20 million for the lease to help him bridge an interim period while he waits for a $265 million, retractable-roof stadium downtown with 42,000 seats.
But Harris County Judge Robert Eckels has not budged past $10 million for the lease, which runs through 2023, the newspaper said.
The money would be paid over three years and McLane would continue operating the Astrodome, which he says will earn him a $2.5 million profit this year.
If McLane wasn't able to strike a deal in Houston, he threatened to resume talks with Virginia businessman Bill Collins, who last year offered a reported $160 million for the franchise. He wants to move it to the Washington suburbs.
An unidentified, high-ranking Astros official told the Chronicle there is a 99 percent chance McLane will reveal his plans to stay.
McLane, who claims the Astros have lost more than $80 million during his four years of ownership, has estimated a new ballpark would generate at least another $20 million for the team annually through the sale of luxury suites, tickets and concessions.
For the deal to be finalized, Harris County voters must approve a sports facilities referendum on Nov. 5, and the upcoming Texas Legislature must approve a funding mechanism to finance much of the construction cost.
Unless both happen, McLane would be free to sell his team.