HOUSTON -- Yet another plan for the Astrodome’s future – replacing it with a park honoring the stadium and its stars -- faces a skeptical reaction from the elected officials who’ll ultimately decide its fate.
This latest proposal comes from the Astrodome’s neighbors, the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, who’ve made no secret of their disdain for the grimy and aging landmark literally gathering dust next door to NRG Stadium.
Although some Harris County commissioners say they’re willing to consider the plan, they’re not exactly embracing it. And right now, the county judge opposes any plan to tear down the dome.
“I’m not one of those that’s in favor of demolishing the dome,” said Ed Emmett, Harris County judge. “I’ve not come to that conclusion yet. So this is just one more proposal, as far as we’re concerned.”
Even Commissioner Steve Radack, who once brashly suggested tearing down the dome and turning the remaining hole in the ground into a detention pond, sounded skeptical as he said he was willing to consider the idea. One of his biggest concerns is how much money the Texans and the rodeo are willing to kick into the proposal.
“I’m open to any proposal…,” Radack said. “But I told ‘em, ‘Hey, y’all need to bring money.’”
The $66-million plan would tear down virtually the Astrodome, replacing it with a ring of structural columns resembling those now surrounding the stadium. The columns would bear plaques commemorating athletes and artists who performed in the dome.
The site would be covered with green space, possibly surrounding a small replica of the Astrodome that would serve as a museum to the stadium’s history. The plan’s proponents compare it to Discovery Green, the park that helped transform the east side of downtown Houston.
"It really preserves the history and heritage and culture of that great building,” said Leroy Shafer, the rodeo’s chief operating officer. “But it also gives us something we don't have here in NRG Park right now and that is green, usable space.”
Artist renderings show banners and projection screens stretched between the columns serving as a backdrop for special events, including anchoring of sports broadcasts. The project’s timeline would complete construction in time for the 2017 Super Bowl scheduled for NRG Stadium next door to the dome site.
Preservationists immediately rejected the latest proposal to tear down the dome.
“We need to save that building because it is culturally significant,” said Beth Wiedower, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Houston. “It was the first of its kind in the world. It remains solid as a rock. It is structurally sound. It is a Harris County asset.”
Emmett said the overwhelming public sentiment he’s heard suggests most people in Harris County want the dome preserved.
“Ultimately, the commissioners court needs to make a decision,” Emmett said. “And that’s me and four county commissioners. We all have equal votes. And I just don’t think we’re there yet.”