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How about Astrodome Indoor Park?

County Judge Ed Emmett gives his vision for the Astrodome.

Still cheaper to renovate than the real thing

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Tuesday proposed turning the Astrodome into “the world’s largest indoor park” and recreation area, a concept he said would honor the reason his predecessor built the iconic stadium 50 years ago: “To provide for traditional outdoor activities in an indoor space.”

“Rather than try to convert the Dome into something it was never intended to be, I think it’s time to look back to the vision of Judge Hofheinz,” Emmett told reporters gathered on the floor of the 49-year-old structure.

Among potential attractions Emmett said he could envision at the domed stadium were a large open green for festivals and other community gatherings, general exercise facilities, an amphitheater, a pavilion for music and other events, and special educational facilities for children, even museums. The Dome also could house permanent or temporary sports facilities, such as an archery range or horseshoe pits, he said.

Emmett said he has discussed the idea with members of Commissioners Court, as well as NRG Park’s major tenants, the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

He acknowledged his proposal was open-ended and did not include any funding plan, the lack of which has been his major criticism of previous proposals to redevelop the stadium.

“I think it’s important to layout the vision and call on the public and experts to help implement that vision,” he said.

Funding would consist of a combination of private and public funds, including rental fees, Emmett said. He gave no cost estimate for the proposal, saying that would be revealed once the plan is firmed up.

“Let me stress again, converting the Dome into the world’s largest indoor park is a vision worth pursuing,” Emmett said. “But in order to realize that vision, we must look to the public sector, the private sector and the general public for that support.”

Emmett’s statement about his vision for the Dome, which Swamplot notes has some similarity at a high level to the kind of plan that the Rodeo and the Texans were touting as having public support, is here. Getting enough of the public behind a vision for the Dome, enough to overcome the persistent cynicism that many people feel and that I think helped lead to the defeat of the 2013 referendum. People are going to need to be convinced that this is a good idea, that it really will save the Dome, that it’s not just another boring proposal being put before them so Commissioners Court will have cover to do the Rodeo and Texans’ bidding and finally tear it down, and that the value proposition for whatever the county will spend and the taxpayers will be asked to fund is there. The vision is good, but the sooner we have details and some pretty pictures to ponder, the better, especially if the idea is to have something ready in time for the 2017 Super Bowl. Texpatriate has more.

UPDATE: Texas Leftist has more.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Shirley says:

    How about a branch of the Houston Public Library inside, while we’re at it?

    I’d love to see a comparison of how much the taxpayers payed for Reliant / Enron / Original Dome, compared to what we need to refurbish this.

  2. D York says:

    The problem with the Astrodome fundamentally is that whatever you put in there will be so sporadically ill-used as to be a complete non-starter for private money. Ampitheatre? How often do those get used? Mueseum? That’s a one-time novelty visit. Children’s STEM lab? Whaaaattt? Hike and bike trails? That’s a micro-group within Houston.

    The reason you tear down the dome is so that you can think outside “the dome”; without the Dome getting in the way architecturally.

    What really fascinates me is the way Judge Emmit is so doggedly keeping the Dome alive. I’m starting to get a sense he has a few pokers in the fire to make himself richer should any private money start flowing in.

  3. Gary says:

    It sounds like a great idea!

  4. richard says:

    Sounds a lot like an idea he had in 2009

    Ed Emmett, April 22, 2009, “ I said in the interview that I was hoping to reserve the Dome for public use, including the possibility of converting it into an indoor venue for the area’s many cultural festivals. Houston and Harris County are famous for the Astrodome and for our many cultural festivals.

    Some of the major festival organizers have responded eagerly to the idea in informal discussions, so I’m now soliciting input from other organizers, civic groups, preservationists and the public at large.

    At the same time, other groups are discussing museums, planetariums, studios and all sorts of public venues, but having the Dome as a multipurpose facility for everyone to enjoy would be tremendous. Of course, I imagine the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo would find it a useful venue too.

    http://blog.chron.com//thelist/2009/04/reserve-the-astrodome-for-public-use/

    only now there’s a horsehoe pit.

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