Last year as Houston’s world-famous Astrodome celebrated its 50th Anniversary, many of the folks in attendance were left to wonder if that celebration would be its last. Since Harris County voters rejected a 2013 proposal to rehab the structure, many have been watching and waiting for some bad news to come. Even as Judge Ed Emmett continued to push for solutions and not give up the cause, many have prepared themselves for some inevitably tough news.
Which is why this week’s discussions about a new plan to save the dome seemed equal parts fact and fiction. Have county leaders really devised a plan that would not only save the historic structure, but do so at less than half the cost of the 2013 plan?? It doesn’t seem possible, but apparently this is what has happened.
Here’s the story from Mihir Zaveri of the Houston Chronicle…
Harris County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to move forward with a major renovation project that could keep the Astrodome from being demolished for years to come.
The $10.5 million approved Tuesday is the first piece of a $105 million project that would raise the floor of the Astrodome two levels and put 1,400 parking spaces underneath. County officials believe that would make the Dome suitable for festivals or conferences and usher in potential commercial uses in the more than 550,000 square feet that surrounds the core.
From Judge Emmett, here are more details of the plan, via Ted Oberg of ABC 13…
Raise the Astrodome floor 30 feet to ground level, greatly easing vehicular and equipment access.
Install two levels of underground parking beneath the raised floor, adding approximately 1,400 premium parking spaces and additional storage.
Raised floor will create nearly eight acres of secure, column-free and weatherproof open space for use by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Offshore Technology Conference, boat show, auto show and more than 100 festivals and community events that are currently subject to threatening weather and /or parking limitations.
The Astrodome’s upper levels encompass more than 500,000 square feet and will become available for redevelopment for a variety of uses.
The plan saves the iconic Astrodome for future use while converting the building into a revenue-generating asset for the taxpayers of Harris County.
After years of sifting through scores of elaborate solutions, in typical Houston fashion, simplicity seems to have won out in the end. Best of all, the funding scheme put forth by Commissioner’s Court will not raise taxes, and does not require voter approval. So basically, the Astrodome will be sticking around for a while.
In the coming weeks and months, this is sure to be a hot topic around Houston, as area voters discuss the merits of the plan. Supporters of the Dome may find the project underwhelming, while opponents will call it a waste. But the far greater injustice is what has happened over the years as this incredibly unique has sat idol, collecting dust. It would be nearly as expensive to tear down, so citizens should be encouraged by what County leaders have offered today.
Look out Houston… we just might save the dome after all.