Latest Astrodome Redevelopment Proposal Features Large Domed Space for People To Mill About, Wondering What To Do with Astrodome

Charged with figuring out what to do with the Astrodome, those wacky folks at the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation have at last identified a viable new use for the aging multipurpose venue. Their idea this time: turn it into . . . a multipurpose venue! Using a $50,000 budget granted by county commissioners, consultants hired by the corporation demonstrated the clear advantages of large-scale design by committee. One actual specific recommendation of the consultants’ report, issued yesterday: A feasibility study, which would — among other things — identify an “overall concept” for the project.

To help communicate their ideas for the space, both the written and PowerPoint versions of the report include several drawings that show large numbers of possibly confused people wandering about pointlessly in and around a revamped Dome:


A major strength of this latest plan is that it incorporates a number of other concepts to reuse the structure that have been suggested over the years — thereby neutralizing the threat that any competing proposals might garner support. The revised Reliant Park Master Plan includes some of these: a hotel with a skybridge connection, a parking garage, a “festival plaza,” a racetrack, and yes, even horse stables — though all are placed outside the confines of the Dome.

The multipurpose venue itself would include a planetarium; some sort of institute promoting science, technology, engineering, and math; thermal and stormwater storage; and yes, solar panels arrayed in the shape of a world map on the roof.

A fancier version of the same proposal, dubbed “Astrodome Renaissance,” would include privately funded upgrades, including a sustainability and alternative-energy center; museums (notably one focused on the Astrodome itself); a movie studio; and what appear to be NASA-related theme-park-style “destinations,” such as a “global science forum,” a “starship navigator,” an “earth orbit command” center, a “deep ocean quest,” and the obvious “energy frontier.” With these plans, everybody wins! The committee has listened to all of your ideas . . . and assimilated them! What other options could you possibly want?

The report throws around a few enclosed-ballpark cost estimates, but assumes all basic upgrades to the structure would be publicly funded. Not including upgrades to the surrounding facilities, you get a base-model refurbished Dome for $324 million. Then there’s the cheaper option: For just $128 million, they’ll crush the Astrodome into tiny bits, leaving just an imprint on a plaza. Just putting those two numbers side by side appears to be the main point of the entire exercise. Mothballing the facility until the corporation’s management team retires would likely be much cheaper, but that option isn’t on the table.

The Sports and Convention Corporation has a long and admirable record of promoting and carefully guarding a series of comical and somewhat dubious proposals for the Dome. But there may be a method to this latest mind-numbing plan. An online ballot presents only three choices: the 2 “multipurpose venue” proposals — matched with estimates of high taxpayer-funded price tags but no mention of potential revenue — and the “tear the darn thing down already” option. No room for write-in candidates, and no option to kick out the corporation’s hapless management team and follow a less haphazard and stultifying process. If the Corporation’s goal was to sway popular opinion in favor of spending $128 million in public funds to demolish the dome, it’s hard to imagine how they could have choreographed it any better.

23 Comment

  • I’ve always thought they could make tons of money holding gladiatorial games, wild animal hunts, and mock naval battles in the Astrodome.

  • Masses of people wandering aimlessly around a blank, austere space? Oh, it must be the latest Houston Apple Store location!

  • Throw in some parkour, and a colonic irrigation facility and we’ll have something for everyone.
    It really is kind of amazing how all of those different artists’ renderings manage to suggest alienation and aimless ennui.
    So that drew me in for a closer look, and good gosh– What is that little short Martian looking being with the cocked head and fuzzy ears in renderings #4 and #6?

  • a girl with pigtails?

  • Thing is, rendering programs encourage/facilitate certain elements: copses of mid-height trees, brief-case-toting suit-wearers, kite-flying kiddos, etc.

  • … privately funded upgrades, including a sustainability and alternative-energy center; museums (notably one focused on the Astrodome itself) …
    A museum about the Astrodome inside the Astrodome, no doubt with an exhibit about how the Astrodome sat empty for years before becoming a mixed-use venue that includes a museum about the Astrodome inside the Astrodome, no doubt with an exhibit …

    Mind blown.

  • Very entertaining post. Is the “deep ocean quest” somehow tied to the storm water storage component? I agree with the author, the “Astrodome Renaissance” concept is to demonstrate how ridiculous the proposals have been, including this one, and the need to just tear the thing down.

  • so does the $128MM to demolish it include the $50MM the county still owes on it?

  • Too bad Rothko isn’t alive to paint another series of giant black painitngs, would seem rather approt pos given that stark architecture. Looks like a space age wii/mii mingling area, snore..

  • One word: CASINO. Paint that bad boy Gold!!!

  • This seems to be a natural fit with the proposed banana-shaped Astroworld redevelopment being pilloried here over the past couple of days.
    Sometimes it is best to just walk away.

  • Yes MCoerver – CASINO!!!

    The Fesitival Plaza Render even includes the typical casino hotel form (w/requisite lollipop trees)…..if I squint at the screen it’s almost like I am in Vegas or any number of towns along the Louisiana, Miss. coast.

  • 128 million to demolish?

    Surely this could be done with a few hundred bucks worth of dynamite, and cleared by a couple thousand Texas Department of Corrections inmates with pick axes and wheelbarrows. I’m sure we’re paying a lot more than 128 million to have them sitting around watching cable TV, surfing the internet, and lifting weights all day.

    “..several drawings that show large numbers of possibly confused people wandering about pointlessly in and around a revamped Dome.” – LMAO!!!

  • How about turning the Astrodome into the Smithsonian Museum of Energy and Power? Just like the National Air & Space Museum, it could collect the actual artifacts of the industry that calls Houston home and that plays such an important part in all of our daily lives. You could put a whole supertanker, a few notorious drilling rigs, some significant parts of an oil refinery, working solar panels and several generations of windmill turbines inside. Divide up the concourse spaces for offices (alternative energy business incubators, etc) Could be really interesting and also an appropriate use for the facility.

  • SCL, that’s some very good thinking.

    Or…Those renderings of people wandering around under a roof look like a Texas-scale Grand Central Station concourse. So, let’s turn the Dome into a transit hub. Light rail, subway, monorail, bike lanes, let ’em all start there and tie in to whatever else gets built.

  • Yes! reuse of the ‘Dome has to mesh with the pro sports, trade shows, and the HLSR…
    and that is transportation. Who says a trans. hub can’t be circular?

  • The Dome is such a huge 3D space. It will cost $billions to truly make use of its potential. They should legalize gambling inside the Dome and lease space to the casinos. I could only imagine what they could build. It would be a massive tourist destination. The Dome would live again!

  • How about turning it into a giant “Athletic Hall of Fame” and sports business consulting firm and think tank. With retail, restraunts and theatre.

  • Geez, couldn’t they also give me a pony while they’re at it?

  • Has anyone considered what Houston really needs? I understand our jails are packed to capacity, and no one has come up with a solution for our homeless. It worked for New Orleans’ folks fleeing Hurricane Katrina. It’s not a creative solution — let’s get practical. Or, we could fill it with sea water and call it the Gulf.

  • I was wondering how many extra parking spaces it would provide if it were turned into a multilevel parking facility? Seems to me it would be easy enough to build a parking garage inside, thus no demolition required. I really like the parking garage across from the Toyota Center. It would be great for people to be able to just walk across to Reliant Stadium instead of perhaps having to walk from the south parking area near the 610 loop or walk from around the Dome from Fannin.

  • The Astrodome would make a fine intermodal transit center for the south side such as envisioned for the Burnett Intermodal transit center on the north side of Houston. This site could be the Grand Central station for the southern region of Harris County and adjacent counties. It should incorporate light rail connection, city and highway bus transfer connections with park and ride facilities. It should plan for interurban commuter rail connections to Galveston, airports and cruise lines. There would be at least three levels with rail at the lowest level, Bus, bus transfer and taxi service at mid level and a concourse with shops and restaurants at the upper level. Houston Metro would run the facility. This is my vision for a viable future for the Astrodome.

  • The plans for the dome are to grandoise and not imaginative enough at the same time. The various proposals that were voted down aimed to recreate the site as a place for concerts, a museum etc… The trouble is people don’t attend concerts or go to museums on an everyday basis. A better plan would be to re-imagine the Astrodome as a place for everyday life. Houston is blessed with world class universities. Why not reach out to them see if they would be interested in locating satellite campuses in the dome, including those from the nearby TMC or maybe even a NASA sponsored Science Academy. Adding that along with adding restaurants, shops and maybe even the world largest sports bar could create a thriving public space for everyday life. With the METRO right across the street this would be the perfect jumping off point to take the train to an Astros, Dynamo or Rockets game. Repurposing the dome as a vibrant place for daily activity, not a special event oriented place where people pay to park is the way forward. The Astrodome, which was unique back in 1965, could become a one of a kind public space that generates economic activity in a unique way for the 21st century.