HOUSTON -- In a city known for tearing down history at the drop of a hat, the Astrodome appears to be the exception to the rule.
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation recommended Wednesday that the dome be renovated with public funds -- not demolished.
The historic landmark would be reinvented as a state-of-the-art conference and exposition center, capable of hosting a large number of sports, convention and community events.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett praised the proposal.
”The concept is excellent,” Emmett said. “It not only preserves an iconic structure, but it gives Houston and Harris County a truly unique and historic venue for conferences and events. Meeting planners around the world will want to use the space.”
Nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome has been planted in Houston for more than four decades. From the highs of Houston sports to the lows of human misery after Hurricane Katrina, the dome has been home to history.
Now, it's caked with dust, covered with mold and infested with rats. It hasn't been used in four years because of safety issues. The maintenance fees cost the county $2 million to $3 million a year. It would cost $120 to tear it down.
The price tag to renovate the dome is $194 million and it would take 30 months to complete, according to HCSCC officials.
“It has taken a long time to get to this point,” Emmett said. “But I believe the concept for repurposing the Astrodome will give us a facility that will garner much attention and will make us the events capital of the world.”
Under the proposal, glass panels would be installed in four sections of the Astrodome, allowing people outside the stadium to look into it. The floor of the dome would be raised to street level, making what’s happening inside the stadium visible to people walking around green space surrounding its perimeter.
The seats currently inside the dome would be torn out, but temporary seating could be brought back into the facility for sporting events.
It would be a "gateway" to Reliant Stadium.
"We want everybody to go to the Super Bowl through the Astrodome," said HCSCC Executive Director Willie Lostin.
The plan to restore the dome goes to Harris County commissioners next week. Voters will probably, though not necessarily, have the final say. Although it’s possible county officials will figure out a way to pay for the renovation without borrowing money, that’s considered unlikely. So Harris County would probably have to float a bond issue, which would require approval from voters.