We’ve been talking for a long time now about what is to become of the Astrodome. Harris County officials have some possible scenarios to discuss next week as part of a master plan for Reliant Park. Like it or not, demolition is on the table.
If the Dome is demolished, it would be replaced by a park-like setting rather than parking spaces, [Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation] said. And demolition, he said, would be more complicated than it was for Texas Stadium in Irving, the Dallas Cowboys’ former stadium, which was ringed by three freeways with no other buildings nearby.
“This (the Astrodome) is in the middle of an operating complex,” Loston said. “I’ve got football games I’m getting ready for (at Reliant Stadium) in two months.”
I’ll never object to the addition of park space, but I’m wondering how much use it would get. I can see some possibilities, but I also have this vision of the place being basically abandoned except when there’s an event at Reliant. I’ll need to see some details.
The other options start with the same premise: The Dome’s outer shell would remain standing, but the interior would be gutted, removing seats, concourses and skyboxes, and a 300,000- to 400,000-square-foot floor would be installed at street level above the current Dome floor, which is 32 feet below street level.
“When you walked into the Dome, you would walk right onto this new floor surface,” Loston said. “We would be getting rid of the hole in the ground and rehabbing the building.”
Potential uses in a basic reconfiguration could include a planetarium and a institute for science, technology, education and mathematics, established through non-public funding. With portable seats, the Dome also could accommodate sports events, indoor festivals or events in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The third option — “the second option on steroids,” as Loston described it — would include space for meeting rooms, conference rooms and laboratories, built on what are now the Dome’s fifth and seventh levels, plus a collection of museums and a movie soundstage.
All this sounds great, but the key words in there are “non-public funding”. The reason why this has dragged on for as long as it has is precisely because there has not been a private entity that has been able to provide a plan for the Dome and the money to make it happen. How is this different from those previous efforts? I guess we’ll learn more next week, but for now color me skeptical.