09/02/16 12:45pm

NRG stadium, NRG Park, Houston, 77054

METRO is currently seeking some public input on replacing the Reliant Park light-rail stop’s outdated moniker. The agency’s preface to the poll notes that the naming rights to the station itself were never a part of Reliant’s $300-million park-branding deal back in 2002, and  says any new name “needs to be reflective of the area, but should not include any reference to a corporate entity which might require another change in years to come.”

Setting aside any potential consideration of that plan from a reader to go ahead and get nearly 30 potential future name changes over with at once, the nominated names currently in the running are (drumroll):


Saving NRG
07/22/16 4:30pm

METRORail Light-rail Map

In response to word from the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley this week that the Red Line’s Reliant Park light-rail stop might get its station name updated to an even older name, a Swamplot reader jumps on the case with a system-wide list of potential station name changes that might remain unaffected by the sale, rebranding, or demise of any nearby venues or landmarks. Begley notes it could cost Metro around $486,000 to change the Reliant Park stop’s signage. The agency says it would prefer to make the switch at the same time as 2 other station name changes currently under consideration (if they’re approved) — but not until after the Super Bowl, for which a set of cheaper temporary stickers will be deployed to help visitors find NRG Stadium.

The reader, in the spirit of Houston’s budding redesign-it-yourself urban planning scene, suggests that paying up now to swap out all the names that might become a problem later might actually be a long-term cost-saver. The proposed scheme makes sure every station name mentions a cross-street (or maybe a bayou), and keeps some references to existing transit centers, parks, or neighborhoods.

Here’s the full list of suggested switch-outs, separated by rail line, with the current names on the left:


What’s In a Name
07/13/16 1:00pm

9330 Main St., NRG, Houston, 77025

9330 Main St., NRG, Houston, 77025Here’s a recent view from the Buffalo Spdwy. side of the long-vacant 12 acre property at 9330 Main St., now listed as under contract by broker HFF.  The land — a set of parcels outlined in the above aerial photo from HFF listing flier — appears to have never held much in the way of built structures, save for the section at 9403 Buffalo Spdwy. (which sported a branch of Oklahoma-rooted Lebanese steakhouse Jamil’s in the 1970s).

A reader notes that someone has been at work on what appears to be soil testing for the site, which faces Main between the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites and the Public Storage facility, with Prime Storage across the street. The Buffalo Spdwy. frontage is flanked by  some David Weekley homes to the south, and the Pemberton Park townhomes to the north (visible on the left below:)


Stirrings on S. Main
07/01/16 1:30pm

Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans

Here are some of the plans the Harris County commissioners looked over this week as they reviewed the engineering study for the proposal to raise the Astrodome’s below-grade floor and stick a parking garage beneath it. The view above shows an entrance ramp for cars from the east, with a service ramp running up from the southwest; NRG Stadium is shown peeking in on the scene from the left.

Got questions about the plan, or about anything else Dome-related? Someone claiming to be involved with the project is now taking inquiries from all comers over on Reddit. The thread started up yesterday and was still active this morning; topics addressed so far have included how the latest proposal would be funded, the feasibility of that spiral-ey skeletonized park idea, and the surprising number of people who have suggested turning the Dome into an indoor skiing venue.

The poster says they’ll try to keep checking back to answer new questions. While you wait, have a look at more views of the proposed changes to the structure — here’s what the ground-level park on Level 3 might look like, with pedestrian entrances on all 4 sides:


Park and Parking Plans
06/15/16 3:30pm

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)Architects James Richards and Ben Olschner, dissatisfied with the current talk of turning the Astrodome into the world’s largest air-conditioned park, have started drumming up support (and selling t-shirts) for their own idea for overhauling the long-empty structure: stripping the building of all but its core steel structure (“like the Eiffel Tower in Paris”, the duo’s website reads) and adding a spiraling hike and bike trail up to the center of the roof. The duo estimates the project would cost $180 million to execute ($62 million less than what the indoor park plan is estimated to cost); they expect the work could be paid for as a public-private effort like the one that funded Discovery Green (and branded all of its features).

The plan (which also removes all nonessential letters, redubbing the place A-Dome Park) calls for  the replacement of some 13 acres of existing Dome-side parking lot with live oaks, planted in alignment with the building’s steel columns (as seen here from above). Below are a bunch of renderings showing the trees and walkways in place, and some zoomy depictions of the stripped-down ‘Dome back in action:


Dome Dreams
05/24/16 12:30pm

9000 Main St., Reliant, Houston, 77025

That’s 5 stories of sticks now stacked up at 9000 Main St., the triangular former site of the Medical Inn & Suites complex that met its unmaker late last year. The property was bought in 2013 by an entity named Shree Shriji LLC, which shares an address with the Days Inn & Suites near Hobby Airport at 9114 Airport Blvd. The land sits a half block north of Broadmead Dr., directly across Main from Superbowl-prepping NRG Park’s parking lot (the one spanning between Murworth Dr. and McNee Rd.).

The land wasn’t empty for long following deconstructive operations — but another reader did manage to snap a view of the property back in January, when the freshly emptied spot provided a clear view all the way to the since-sold land 2 parcels north, where Regency Car Wash holds soapy court:


More Rooms on Main St.
12/10/15 3:45pm

Sol Lynn/Industrial Transformers Superfund Site, Knight Rd. at 610 South, Houston, 77054

On your way home from checking out the new UT campus site, you might pass by 1 of the 6 Superfund sites located within Beltway 8 — but you almost certainly won’t notice. Just across the Sam’s Club parking lot from the former home of Astroworld, the Sol Lynn/Industrial Transformers site (tucked behind the brush-covered chainlink fence on the right, in the photo above) has no signage identifying it as a project on the EPA’s National Priorities List for cleanup. The little site at Knight Rd. and the 610 feeder is surrounded on two sides by an innocuous grassy lot:


Fun With Superfund
04/09/15 2:15pm

THE ASTRODOME’S FIRST SOLUTION TO ITS CAN’T-SEE-THE-BALL PROBLEM Reliant Astrodome, Houston (6)Before players had that problem losing fly balls in the glare, before a portion of the skylights were painted over, before anyone in Houston had ever considered replacing the outfield grass with something called AstroTurf, there was another system installed in the Astrodome meant to help baseball players keep their eyes on the ball. The Houston Chronicle‘s special section on the Harris County Domed Stadium — on the occasion of its 50th anniversary (today) and birthday party open house (tonight) — includes a reprint (PDF) of the same newspaper’s Astrodome extra from April 8, 1965, the day before opening day. And featured on page 62 is a short preview of the stadium’s space-age air-cleaning technology: “An unusual Honeywell-engineered ultraviolet sensor will run a continual check on the transparency of the air. If it gets murky — from dust or tobacco smoke — the system will signal stadium engineers to open a battery of cupola exhaust dampers. Because air cleaners continuously scrub the air electronically, then pass it through special charcoal filters to sieve out any odors, air inside the stadium normally will be fresher and cleaner than the air outside. ‘In fact, it should be the cleanest air in all Texas,‘ says Lamar Bordelon, Honeywell project engineer on the stadium job. The Honeywell system has an ultraviolet lamp underneath the seats along the third-base line, focused on an ultraviolet sensor in similar position along the first-base line, 700 feet across the stadium. These continuously indicate the transparency of the air between them on a meter located on the control center. Any time the transparency of the air drops to the point where a player would have a hard time seeing a baseball in play 350 feet away, a warning light flashes on.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock

03/23/15 10:00am

JUST A BUNCH OF GUYS HANGING OUT ON THE ASTRODOME ROOF Visitors to Astrodome Roof, HoustonAstrodome security wasn’t the tightest during the Rodeo of 2012, it appears. That’s when builder Russell Hancock snuck inside the unused stadium and sent photos of some of the sorry scenes he found there to Swamplot — sparking a spate of media interest in the long-ignored venue. But Hancock wasn’t the Astrodome’s only unauthorized visitor that year. Brewskies in hand, 4 dudes with cameraphones also snuck into the structure, though it appears they spent much of their time exploring the structure’s peripheral spaces. Over this past weekend, one of the 4 posted an album of pix from their years-ago nighttime venture, the stars of which are the explorers themselves; with blanked-out faces, they’re seen hanging out in locker rooms, hiding in ice machines, operating the scoreboard controls, and pretending to tend bar in an upper-level suite. The highlight, though, is clearly the roofwalk: “After walking around on the top floor,” the anonymous poster writes, “I decided we should try to find our way onto the roof. Not kidding at all — the first door I opened, what looked like a closet door, had a ladder in it. So of course we climbed that shit. It went up about 15 ft. to a hatch that wasn’t locked. So we popped our head out and there was the roof. To the Astrodome. It was surreal. We started to climb up the sky lights to try to get to the top, but about 20—30 ft. up we realized that was probably not the best idea.” [imgur] Photos: Astrodome713

02/11/15 12:30pm

Paint Samples, Astrodome, Houston

What’s next in Astrodome beauty treatments after the unused county stadium’s powerwashing late last year? How about a little color magic? As noted by the KHOU chopper sent out to record the incident earlier this week (which produced the image above), test paint patches recently appeared at the top of the vacant structure’s walls. In concert with the removal of the eighties-add-on stair towers and the latest grime-spray efforts, the painting of a dark bluish-black color on the upper sections of wall just below the roof would help return the stadium exterior to something closer to its original 1965 appearance.


11/19/14 1:00pm

THE NEXT BIG EVENT PLANNED FOR THE ASTRODOME WILL BE A WASH Pressure Washers from Green Team Services, HoustonWhen was the last time anyone bothered to clean the exterior of the Astrodome? Long enough ago to merit media coverage for word that the Dome’s caretakers have now decided to do something about the building’s growing exterior grunge. The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, having presided for 15 years over the former sports stadium’s steady decay, is about to embark on its first notable Dome maintenance operation since firefighters used fans to blow smoke out of the building in the aftermath of a 2011 transformer fire in the vacant facility. With approval from the Texas Historical Commission, reports Fox 26’s Mark Berman, the agency will award local building restoration and pressure-washing practitioners Green Team Services $63,800 to clean the outside of the structure. [My Fox Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Green Team Services

10/22/14 11:30am

CURIOUS POLL PUSHERS WANT TO KNOW: SHOULD THE COUNTY SPEND ANY AMOUNT IT WANTS ON AN ASTRODOME REDO? Interior of Houston AstrodomeThe last time a concrete proposal to spend public money to repurpose the Astrodome was on the ballot, Harris County taxpayers voted it down. So how hard could it be to come up with a new poll showing potential voters aren’t especially eager to shell out for the latest floated idea, to turn the public facility into a giant indoor park — about which no details, price tag, or even feel-good drawings have yet been released? Maybe harder than you might think: In stories about a survey sponsored by KHOU and Houston Public Media whose results were released yesterday, a few news outlets did produce dutiful variants of a “Taxpayers Oppose Money for Astrodome” headline. But coming to that conclusion from the actual data collected in the survey might have been a bit of a stretch. Here’s the somewhat ambiguous wording of the question presented, with no context, to likely voters in the coming election: “Harris County proposes turning the Astrodome into an indoor park. Should the taxpayers of Harris County spend any amount to make the Astrodome into an indoor park if no private investors want to fund the entire project?” 31 percent said yes, 51 percent said no, and 17 percent of respondents said they didn’t know. The subset of respondents who thought they were being asked if they’d be willing to give county government a blank check for a plan they’ve never seen wasn’t broken out separately. [Houston Chronicle; KHOU; Houston Public Media; Astrodome coverage on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock

08/26/14 3:30pm

Astrodome Interior Minus Seats, Houston

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s new “not fully hashed out” plan for reusing the Astrodome is to turn the structure into the world’s largest indoor public park and recreation area. The park might incorporate a number of public institutions and museums within it. Plus: a pavilion for music and other events, and sports facilities such as archery ranges and hiking and biking trails, an archery center, and a large open green space. The fully air-conditioned park would be open to the public every day — except when used by the Rodeo and conferences such as the OTC.

Will Harris County citizens support turning the Astrodome into a park? Strangely, the best evidence that a majority would favor it may come from a recent survey commissioned by 2 organizations that have been trying very hard to get the building torn down.


Texans and Rodeo Fans on Board?
08/25/14 3:45pm

JUDGE EMMETT SAYS HE’LL REVEAL A ‘MAJOR’ PROPOSAL FOR REUSING THE ASTRODOME TOMORROW Astrodome Interior, HoustonFor a good while now, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has been dropping hints about a new proposal to renovate the Astrodome. He’s set to reveal a few details about it tomorrow afternoon, after he holds a press conference set up in a “special little section” of the Astrodome made safe for media attendees. “Emmett has been in discussions with a series of elected officials, stakeholders and interested parties in recent weeks, laying out the general concept for an innovative reuse of the world’s first domed stadium,” a press release from the judge’s office declares. “All [the judge’s spokesperson] could tell me is that it’s ‘public use,’ tweets the Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier. [County Judge Ed Emmett; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Joe Stinebaker

08/22/14 10:00am

Interior of Astrodome with Seats Removed, Houston

The inside of the Astrodome has been closed to the general public since 2008, when inspectors revoked its certificate of occupancy after discovering numerous code violations. Four years later, Swamplot’s publication of reader Russell Hancock’s snuck pics of the structure’s desolate innards spurred several local reporters to request their own tours of the structure. Later, the building’s caretakers offered up a few rounds of media tours of the dilapidated stadium on their own, leading up to last November’s defeat of a bond issue that would have paid for extensive renovations to the building. In advance of the vote, and then again shortly after, the Astrodome’s seating and other furnishings were removed and put up for sale.

But since the seat sell-off, the public hasn’t had a chance to see how the inside of the vacant sports stadium appears with the earth-tone rainbows painted in plastic backrest that once lined its upper decks stripped out and sold off. What does the inside of the Astrodome look like, now that it’s a whole lot less colorful, and pretty much standing-room only?


The End of the Rainbows