Rodeo Houston Doesn’t Care What Happens to the Astrodome — As Long As the Rodeo Gets To Use It

For a charitable nonprofit, Rodeo Houston comes across as a tad indifferent about one of Houston’s neediest causes: CEO Skip Wagner tells the Houston Business Journal‘s Emily Wilkinson that Rodeo Houston is “busting at the seams” and needs more space: “And we’ve got 18 acres that is just wasted right in the heart of Reliant.” What, Wilkinson asks, would Wagner prefer to see happen to the Astrodome?

“Honestly, we don’t care. There are two options — one is tear it down. If so, it would become open area, and we would use it effectively that way. Second, ultimately if they gut it or renovate it, as long as we can use it to put on elements of our show, then we’re fine with that.”

And what about the 48 acres Rodeo Houston bought of the former AstroWorld site across 610? “We could move things like our bus operations over there and expand the presentation footprint (at Reliant),” says Wagner. “We can look at how to use it for its maximum benefit — maybe put in some RV hookups.”

Photo: Candace Garcia

31 Comment

  • As a native Houstonian, I’m growing a wee bit tired of Rodeo Houston.

    I love how this fool does not care “as long as”…Right.

    Get a rope and donate your funds to true scholarships. Not empire building.


  • I like the idea of historical preservation but as odd as it seems to even myself, I just don’t care about saving the Astrodome. It’s an icon, a true symbol of Houston, but about the only use I can imagine for it that makes any sense is as a sports arena. Every other idea I’ve heard–like a hotel, for example–just sounds like trying to squeeze a round hole into a square peg.

  • OMG how much freakin space do they need !!!

  • Rodeo Houston. A good thing gone bad via hubris. The short sighted nature of our powers that be never cease to amaze. The event is only a fraction of a year yet they act as if it were the alpha and the omega of Houston. Our cultural scene is so much more than a rodeo and some singers performing in bad acoustics. Important? Yes. THAT important? No.

  • I agree Anse. Re: Rodeo’s hubris. My non-profit was awarded a grant this year from HLSR and I am learning about the whole (humongous) thing. The thing I can’t figure out is why more people don’t know about all of the money they’re putting into education. Check this out:
    Nearly $25mil this year alone. Why did I have to dig for that info?

  • I actually thought the rodeo was better in the Astrodome than in Reliant Stadium. The big screens on the scoreboard in Reliant are distracting – if you’re sitting in the upper deck, you find yourself watching them instead of the guy on the field. In Fort Worth they still do the rodeo in the Will Rogers Coliseum built in 1944 and the history of the building lends a great flavor to the event. Maybe they could trick out the Astrodome to be the perfect rodeo facility, and then use it for special events the rest of the year.

  • You would think someone tuned in to Houston lore would have something bit more politic to say about its main icon. i don’t disagree that its an intractable problen, but to be so callous…that does speak volumes about the rodeo organization…

  • Isn’t the Rodeo only 3 weeks per year?? I think astrobome turned into mini storage to get some cash flow going to pay for the debt on it, and audit the Rodeo Houston. Im sure the Rodeo enjoys tax free expenses and now is buying up land for a 3 week event. Also audit Livestrong, let’s see where $500 mill went.

  • I agree with several comments.
    The Rodeo really did work better in the ‘Dome.
    And I feel the 8th Wonder and the Country’s biggest rodeo event should be wed! It’s a great match.
    And surely Reliant can find something else to occupy it during the rodeo season.

  • HLSR is the Komen Foundation of charitable rodeos. While they still do some good, there is so much waste, so much overhead, so many egos, and an organization that is now bigger than the cause.

  • What could they turn it into that the rodeo could also use except for something that has a big open space in the middle that you can haul a lot of dirt into – a sporting facility.

  • i’m ready for the astordome to be destroyed. it’s time has come and gone, that is the nature of houston. we are all about new and improved buildings here. we are not a city of historic preservation, we are the opposite.


  • I am really not sure why anyone would disagree with his quote. They need to do something with the place.

    This whole idea of letting it sit and rot until the next administration has to deal with it is the worst possible scenario.

  • Turn it into a parking garage.

  • Hmmm to build a stellar convention space you need more “RV hookups”? You can take the rodeo out of the country, but you just can’t take the country out of the rodeo.

  • From Chris Alexander:

    I will wait to make a full response until I consult with my board, but for now I will say that here at ASTRODOME*TOMORROW we prefer to focus on the part of Wagner’s comment that refers to Rodeo getting to use the facility. Our master plan for Reliant Park, with six years of research behind it, will provide an expanded, enhanced experience for HLSR, its vendors, its visitors and its cowboys and breeders, while saving the Astrodome and turning into a breathtaking venue that generates BILLIONS in tourist revenue. How can we possibly promise all that? You’ll have to wait for it. But it is comprehensive, visionary and sustainable. And it will be made public very soon. –Chris Alexander, founder and Executive Director

    A Texas Nonprofit Corporation

    “Reach For The Stars!”

  • Just tear the dome down, maybe it is because I am a native Houstonian who had friends who raised animals or 4H, at Lamar no less, but I am not understanding this rodeo hate around here.

    I think it comes from the same place that hatred of people outside the loop comes from. Houston isn’t just the city, it is a whole region of Texas where people live and generate wealth, it is the center around which everything from Port Lavaca to Huntsville orbits. Without the cotton from the hinterland there would be no Houston, ditto for the oil, and so on. Does Minneapolis depise the Dakotas? What would Chicago be without all those pig bellies and corn? NYC is the Empire City because of the Empire State. Without things like the rodeo Houston would be the historically empty nowheresville that o many claim, without history or a sense of place. That would be great for everyone who wishes Houston was some city the New York Times would refer to as progressive and Seattlites would praise or its walkability, but it wouldn’t be any particular place. It wouldn’t be the city I am from.

  • A few questions for:Chris Alexander, founder and executive director of Astrodome Tomorrow a non profit.

    Where do you get your funding? How much is or will be your proposed salary? Will your group be supported by tax dollars, TIRZ, or some quasi management district? Who is on your board? How will you generate Billions of dollars for the city? I don’t want to wait. I want to know.

    Because it sounds unbelievable.

  • RV hookups? Such is the state of “leadership” and vision in Houston, Texas today.

  • The nonprofit corporation is organized for the following purposes:

    To author, advocate, enable and assure the realization of ASTRODOME*TOMORROW, a comprehensive, visionary redevelopment plan and sustaining program for Reliant Park and the Reliant Astrodome.

    To promote appreciation and development of issues and initiatives of great importance to ASTRODOME*TOMORROW founders, including: space travel, global consciousness, permaculture, green/alternative energy, and community development.

    To serve the people of Houston and Harris County by fostering the creation of a unique, world-class destination experience that combines spectacular applications of space-age technologies, advanced innovations in education techniques, and an amenity-rich, sustainable green park.

    To devise, recommend, and secure charitable funding for innovative solutions for operational and strategic challenges facing Reliant Park now and in the future.

    To help create structural and financial mechanisms for effective management and stewardship of the new spaces and activities that comprise ASTRODOME*TOMORROW.

    We believe that there are enough people of good will to make this projected transformation possible with NO substantial public funding. And we are working diligently to ADD value to the benefits that HLSR, Texans, OTC and other tenants accrue from Reliant Park. But you will have to wait a bit longer for the details.

  • “Astrodome Tomorrow” sounds like a bunch of hype to me. The same type of hype that got the place built in the first place. Billions in tourist dollars – my a$$. I say tear it down. Quit bagwelling the place.

  • The Rodeo has been given a free ride by local government for the decade since it left the Astrodome, allowing it to roll up more than $100 million yearly in “assets” while not spending a dime to stop the ‘Dome’s decay.
    Just look online at the Rodeo’s IRS form 990 for the latest year (2010) — $94 million in revenue; $112.6 million in net assets. The same quoted rodeo CEO raking in nearly $1 million in compensation. And more than $400k for “lobbying” and $13.3 million in salaries. About a dime of every dollar goes to education, so don’t even try that lame excuse to justify this out-of-control monster.
    It is past time for politicians in the county to stop the absurb subsidies for this spectacle. Of course, they’re lined up at the trough as well…

  • It’s more than hype. When I hear stuff like “space travel, global consciousness, permaculture, green/alternative energy, and community development.”, my BS meter pegs. ASTRODOME*TOMORROW is just another scheme to separate suckers from their money.

  • The whole “I don’t care what happens as long as I like the result” attitude is exactly why the Astrodome has been sitting vacant and falling into disrepair for a decade. The Rodeo CEO has a huge influence on the eventual fate of the Astrodome and this indifference is only going to continue the problem.

    What if the Rodeo helped contribute to a workable solution instead of just sitting idle waiting for something to happen.

  • like Roy, I don’t get all the hate for the rodeo. If you don’t like it, don’t go. other than the trail rides, i don’t see how it would affect people that don’t go to it. furthermore, it is undisputed that they give millions every year for scholarships. maybe the percentage isn’t as high as some of you would like, but they also have to put on a massive three week show. they are clearly not the same as a red cross or united way, but i don’t think most people look at them like that.

    And it’s a historic tradition that brings the town together — something most posters on this site crave.

    as for the astrodome, wagner’s comments seem spot on, albeit obvious — either it needs to be torn down or renovated. not sure there is anything controversial there . . .

  • Harris County just needs to $h@# or get off the pot with the Astrodome. Either something can be done with it or it cannot (I’m leaving towards the latter), but it cannot sit there forever.
    It would take hundreds of millions just to get it cleaned up to be another venue which the city doesn’t need. All the pie in the sky ideas like a hotel, planetarium, and “Astrodome Tomorrow” sound good on the surface, but they will hardly generate millions let alone billions. Then there’s the cost factor, no private entity will put up the money, the county will not pay for it either. Tear it down.

  • Sounds like a Rodeo Welfare program. Pull the plug…

  • I think the Asstrodome would make a super-awesome, spaced-themed hotel and casino. But alas, we must gamble everywhere else but Texas.

  • I prefer the renaissance festival anyway.

  • Letting the rodeo use it as another stage or something sounds like the best idea I’ve heard. Save the DOME!

  • Statement from the Board of directors, ASTRODOME*TOMORROW:

    First, on behalf of everyone at ASTRODOME*TOMORROW, I would like to thank you for your genuine concern for the current state of the Astrodome and its implications for the people of Harris County, the City of Houston, and the State of Texas. The dome was built to last 150 years or longer, but as we approach the 50th anniversary of its opening, we see a facility whose appearance and environmental and mechanical systems have deteriorated despite public spending for its upkeep.

    Although six years of research and development have gone into this project, we are a young organization made up entirely of volunteers. Our first goals are to create awareness as to the current state and potential of the dome, and to offer a reasonable plan for a renaissance that will create jobs, retail, and educational opportunities. Our goal as we move forward is to utilize philanthropic funding while creating partnerships that assure continued operational success for the Astrodome and Reliant Park. The dome is an engineering marvel, a Houston icon recognized around the world, and we hope to celebrate its past while breathing new life into its future. We believe we can do both while supporting Reliant Park’s anchor tenants.

    Our board, while still forming, is made up of dedicated citizens and professionals with a common goal to make the dome an “out of this world” experience that will positively affect Houston and Harris County for many years to come. Out of respect for those involved we will not be releasing detailed information until our official launch, which is coming soon. We value being an organization run by principles of integrity and transparency and we will address all concerns at our launch.

    Again, all of us at ASTRODOME*TOMORROW would like to thank you for your concern and questions.