ANOTHER ASTRODOME INDOOR CLEARANCE SALE Without a lot of fanfare, Reliant Park officials have just announced another round of sales of extracted Astrodome furniture. And it’s scheduled to begin tomorrow morning at 8 am. Astrodome seats once graced by the posteriors of thousands of cheering sports fans will be available for purchase online at the Reliant Park website at that time. [Reliant Park; previously on Swamplot] Photo: mokambo.0219
After the countdown Sunday night at 9:30 pm, blasts went off on 3 of the 4 booster towers surrounding the Houston Astrodome. But there was no liftoff. As the towers collapsed into dusty piles moments later, it became clear: The blasts would not be enough to propel the Dome off its foundation and into outer space. They’ll have to find another way.
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Even the art is getting out of Reliant Park: The bronze Miniconjou chief with outstretched arms that’s stood warily outside the Astrodome since 1998 will likely be skipping town soon and making its way to Oklahoma. The city council of the city of Edmond voted last week to spend up to $90,000 to remove the 18-ft. tall, 20,000-lb. sculpture of Chief Touch the Clouds from its stone base and transport it about 450 miles north; $50,000 of that amount is scheduled to go toward a “donation” to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the privilege of extracting the artwork. Arizona sculptor Dave McGary, who gave the work to the Rodeo 15 years ago, passed away earlier this year at the age of 55, from a rare form of kidney cancer.
Former Edmond mayor Randel Shadid, who’s been eager to bring more public artworks to the municipality just north of Oklahoma City, tells the Edmond Sun that “a representative from Houston” had told him that the sculpture of a cousin of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse “has been maintained and is in good structural condition.” But the artist’s widow paints a different picture of how the sculpture’s been treated at Reliant Park: that it’s in bad shape and will need to be refurbished. “They never took care of it,” Molly McGary told a reporter from the Oklahoman last week. Edmond city council’s agreement to spend the money is contingent on the sculpture being in good condition.
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Rodeo Astrodome Sell-Off
Craig Hlavaty rounds up more detail on plans to implode the Astrodome’s 4 exterior ramp towers, which brought to the monolithic stadium structure a more castle-like appearance when they were added for upper-deck and wheelchair access in the late eighties. Cherry Demolition will knock the circular structures down after dark, beginning just after 9 pm on Sunday, December 8, though the weather may require changes to the schedule. Only 3 of the towers will be dynamited and dropped, however; the fourth tower will be brought down piece-by-piece with demo equipment. There won’t be a Texans game going on in Reliant Stadium, so viewing vantage points may be hard to come by.
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The 3 Implosions
Sure it’s dug 35 ft. into the earth now, but who’s to say sometime after an additional 3 decades or so of mulling it over we couldn’t insert a steel hull under the thing — so that when the waters of the rising Gulf came for Houston, the Astrodome, stuffed with valuables and maybe a species specimen or two, couldn’t just up and spirit itself away? Of course in this scenario the whole Reliant Park area has already reverted to swamp, and raised-seawall Galveston’s been entirely underwater for a number of spring break cycles. It’s 2050, and after an extra water surge from Hurricane Rick — Rick? — overcomes the submerged island’s new dike, Houston has just a little bit of time left to get the Dome up on moorings, so the gently but steadily rising waters can lift it and carry it off to sea.
“One of the best things about this proposal,” writes the distinguished Reliant Stadium-loathing jury, not missing a beat, “is that it gets the dome away from its neighbor.” And so: second prize for “The Houston Ark,” by San Antonio architects Brantley Hightower (of HiWorks) and Erica Goranson (of Lake Flato Architects), in the strangely timed whatever-shall-become-of-the-Astrodome design competition sponsored by The Architect’s Newspaper and the zippy folks at YKK AP, whose winners were announced earlier this month.
What would this cargo-laden Astrodome carry?
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The Houston Ark
Reliant Park and Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. officials haven’t announced how they intend to demolish the Astrodome’s 4 exterior towers. But on Friday, a city permit was granted for “Implosion of the Helixes at the Astrodome.” Kaboom! The towers, which contain helical ramps for visitors to walk or roll up and crowd down, were added to the Astrodome in 1989 to comply with then-new accessibility regulations. The work coincided with the removal of the original outfield scoreboard and its replacement with 15,000 new seats, at the instigation of Houston Oilers’ owner Bud Adams. Why are the towers going away?
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What kind of crazy idea is this — an actual open design competition for proposals to remake the Astrodome? And even stranger: One where the winners are scheduled to be announced a few days after voters pass judgment on what county officials had already declared to be the only viable alternative to demolition? Only now — given the results — maybe the timing and the concept don’t seem so absurd?
“Reimagine the Astrodome,” of course, was meant to be a design competition — not one focused on financial or political viability. (Maybe some other folks could put together a corresponding challenge focusing on those aspects.) The sponsors, the Architects’ Newspaper and YKK AP (yeah, the company with its name on your zipper) were hoping that “winning proposals would serve either as a swan song for a doomed architectural icon, or as inspiration for its possible future.” And what came in? 23 submissions ranging from “feasible interventions . . . to wildly imaginative and utterly improbable schemes that nevertheless encapsulated the heady spirit that originally propelled this project to completion in the 1960s.” And the winner, as announced yesterday by a jury not looking for cash flows or approval by the Houston Texans and the Rodeo but rather “strength of concept” and “quality of presentation”: this parking garage. A monument, as the jury of designers put it, “to the pain in the ass that parking is in Houston.”
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AN ASTRODOME GAMBIT THAT WON The Astrodome’s future may have taken a hit in Tuesday’s bond vote, but the building’s past has never looked brighter. The Dome, in all its historical splendor, will now head to the silver screen. Filmmakers Chip Rives and David Karabinas succeeded in reaching their $65,000 goal with their Kickstarter effort to fund additional filming and finishing work on The Dome Movie, a cinematic tribute to Houston’s once-astonishing ambitions and the building that made them apparent to the world. A total of 233 backers pushed the fundraising campaign, which officially ended yesterday, to a total of $68,618, earning for themselves expressions of gratitude ranging from Facebook-page thank-yous to actual Producer credit. Included on the filmmakers’ now-funded to-do list: interviews with Earl Campbell, Billie Jean King, and George Strait — and some sort of ending. [Kickstarter; previously on Swamplot] Movie still: Texas Crew
NOW PICTURE HOUSTON’S ASTRODOME REPLACED BY A GIANT WET PIT Simply filling in the 9-acre, 35-ft.-deep hole in the ground where the Astrodome now sits would eat up more than $10 million of the estimated $28 million it would cost to demolish the publicly owned structure, according to county engineers. (Another $8 million of that total has already been approved, for removal of asbestos, ticket booths, turnstiles, grass berms, and ramps, plus all the seats and interior items; that demo work is already taking place.) Which leads county commissioner Steve Radack to suggest that the money be saved and the site be turned into a giant flood-preventing detention pond — “if and when” it is demolished. That’d make for a rather eloquent and down-to-earth symbol to substitute for Houston’s most famous landmark. Judge Emmett, who before the failed bond vote favored preserving the Dome by renovating it, declared after Tuesday’s election defeat that “We’re going to have to do something quick.” But commissioner Jack Cagle says he has no deadlines for a decision in mind. So who’s pushing to have the Dome demolished in a hurry? The same folks who’ve been calling the aging structure an “inconvenience” to Rodeo and Texans game visitors, write the Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier and Nancy Sarnoff: “Reliant Park’s main tenants, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans want the county to act as quickly as possible, and certainly before the Super Bowl comes to Reliant Stadium in early 2017.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou detention basin: John Lienhard
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT SHIP WON’T SAIL “May we have a Comment of the Day that isn’t from a Swamplot reader? This has to be it: ‘”We can’t allow the once-proud Astrodome to sit like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot. This was the best effort (to revamp the stadium), and voters have turned it down,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.’
I mean seriously, Judge Emmett? The County has mishandled the Dome from the beginning, and NOW you have a sense of urgency? And THIS was the County’s best effort?” [JD, commenting on Headlines: Astrodome Bonds Voted Down; Bayport Cruise Terminal’s First Ship Comes In]
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: DO NOT DETONATE “Sports [and Convention Corp.], Port Authority . . . let’s get rid of them.
The question of what to do with the Dome is a no-brainer. What would you do with your ‘old’ home once you got moved into your new ‘dream home’? Would you sell it? Would you lease it out? Would you donate it to a charity or non-profit? Would you demolish it and get NOTHING from it in return?
It would cost at least 200 million to 300 million dollars to replicate a structure/facility comparable to the Dome and how there could be anyone in Houston in favor of demolition is unimaginable.
In actuality, the referendum on Tuesday’s ballot was for the issuing of bonds totaling $217 million so that the Dome could be physically remodeled into a more versatile facility. Just because the referendum failed does not mean that the Dome will be demolished.
Hopefully, there is a majority of Harris County Commissioners who will not implode $300 million worth of Harris County assets for a new parking lot. If not, then maybe we should get rid of some commissioners also.
Houston, get real. Remember all the stadiums that the Chinese rushed to get completed for the Beijing Olympics? If we already have 2 right near each other why would we want to tear one down?
If Harris County doesn’t want to spend money to repurpose it in 2013 then we should wait . . . maybe in another couple of years — after all, Inner Loop real estate just keeps appreciating.” [joenormal, commenting on New I-45 Billboard Goes Up, Just in Time to Save the Astrodome?] Illustration: Lulu
HAWTHORNE COMES TO PRAISE THE ASTRODOME, NOT TO BURY IT For an article slipped online only after election-day voting had already begun on the ill-fated $217 million bond issue that would have turned the Houston landmark into a convention center, L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne decides a few things need to be said about the Astrodome. Some highlights: “Forget Monticello or the Chrysler building: There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome. Widely copied after it opened in 1965, it perfectly embodies postwar U.S. culture in its brash combination of Space Age glamour, broad-shouldered scale and total climate control. . . . [A]ll I had to do to understand the full appeal of the architecture was look up toward the center of the massive steel-framed roof, more than 200 feet above my head. Light filtered through its hundreds of panels fell serenely on the rest of the vast interior. Seen from that vantage point, the building has lost none of its tremendous aesthetic power. . . . Even if its attitude toward the environment now strikes us as deeply naive, the Astrodome deserves to be protected simply as a singular monument to the American confidence and Texas swagger of the 1960s. The stadium doesn’t so much symbolize as perfectly enclose a moment in time.” [L.A. Times] Photo: Candace Garcia
The reader who sends this photo from this morning’s commute — on I-45 North near Canino — says it appears workers were “just putting up” this “Save the Dome” sign from OurAstrodome.org on the billboard this morning. “I drive by there every day and I don’t remember seeing it [before today],” the reader reports. The campaign ad in support of Harris County Proposition 2 on today’s ballot — which will determine the fate of the Astrodome — is visible going northbound on the freeway. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
WILL THE RODEO OR THE TEXANS PAY RENT TO USE THE ASTRODOME? Contradicting teevee reporter Ted Oberg’s declaration a couple of weeks ago that the county’s own projections show that the renovated Astrodome would barely break even, the Chronicle’s Kiah Collier produces the county’s underlying single-sheet financial summary (PDF), which projects net operating income of $1.9 million a year for a redone Dome, based on $4 million in revenue. There’s not a lot of detail behind any of the “ballpark” figures that go into that projection, though — and there’s clearly been disagreement over a couple of revenue sources that may or may not be included in it. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has now officially endorsed (PDF) the bond proposal on tomorrow’s ballot that would fund the conversion of the Astrodome into “The New Dome Experience” — but only, it seems, after wresting commitments from county officials to create some sort of repair fund for Reliant Stadium and to pay for repairs to the Reliant Arena — before replacing it, somewhere down the line. Judge Emmett and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp.’s Edgar Colón now say the Rodeo may not have to pay rent to use the revamped facility, but whether the free-rent deal the Rodeo had with the Astrodome legally applies to a renovated and seemingly repurposed facility isn’t quite so clear to other officials Collier talks to, who claim any payments would be “worked out later.” The Houston Texans, meanwhile, who earlier this year with the Rodeo promoted a study showing how a $29 million demolition of the Dome would clear way for 2,500 shiny new parking spots — have been standing on the sidelines while the bond proposal is put to voters. Really, the team would have no interest at all in using a completely revamped name-brand facility right next to the site of the 2017 Super Bowl, even? “If the Astrodome is renovated,” the team’s coy statement reads, “we would consider using it, but do not have a specific use in mind at the present time . . .” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of the New Dome Experience: New Dome PAC/Kirksey Architecture