06/08/17 1:45pm

What’s going on with the Astrodome, after state senator John Whitmire’s plan to require a vote on a planned reconfiguration of the long-vacant former stadium was blocked last month? The project is still in a “design phase” that continued through the legislative session and is expected to last through the end of this year, and which includes some rather unglamorous tasks — such as verifying existing drawings and digging up the facility’s drainage pipe to see what condition it’s in. But officials won’t wait until the design phase is complete before getting estimates from construction managers. “After we get all the estimates, we’ll go back to commissioners court for approval to proceed,” county engineer John Blount tells Community Impact reporter Shawn Arrajj.

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Offices and Restaurants and Retail Too
05/31/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NEXT ASTRODOME ELECTION IS ALREADY SCHEDULED, ANYWAY “Great to see that a bill specifically tailored to torpedo the Astrodome has been shot down. The state politicians should not meddle in local county affairs. Did anyone ever ask Houston and Harris County voters to spend millions upon millions to host another Super Bowl? Or to upgrade Reliant Stadium to please McNair? If the county’s financing plan is legitimate (no bonds issued, and a referendum not required), let them continue. Harris county voters have already spoken by voting Emmett and others in. They’ll have their chance to vote them out if needed. The revitalized Dome could be something special — why waste a unique structure and a Houston landmark?” [Blake, commenting on The Bill To Force an Astrodome Garage-ification Election Is Dead, Again, For NowIllustration: Lulu

05/30/17 2:15pm

The state bill proposed by Houston-area senator John Whitmire (to require a vote on major county-funded upgrades to certain Texas stadiums that happen to be the Astrodome) was killed in the Texas House by a different Houston-area legislator, Robert Arnold reports this week for KHOU. (That likely means the work on Harris County’s plan to fill in the bottom of the Dome with an underground parking garage can go ahead without a special election on the spending.) The bill actually passed the Senate at the end of March, but died in the House’s County Affairs committee chaired by representative Garnet Coleman (whose own legislative district ever-so-slightly overlaps Whitmire’s around Fourth Ward: From there, Coleman’s District 147 stretches down through Third Ward toward the Beltway along the Gulf Freeway, while Whitmire’s Senate District 15 horseshoes up 290 to FM 1960 and Humble before looping back down to the Ship Channel). Arnold says the bill made an unsuccessful comeback attempt as an amendment to another measure, and looks to be dead for now as of yesterday’s end of the normal legislative calendar. (Then again — who knows what might pop up during a special session?)

Schematic of county Astrodome parking garage plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

Parking Plan Stop-and-Go
05/04/17 5:15pm

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is now promoting a crowdfunding campaign to host some kind of multi-day art-slash-music-slash-sports festival inside the Astrodome, perhaps as depicted in the trippy rendering above shown on the campaign’s online fundraising page. (The campaign is one of the so-called Cities Project projects being coordinated by the National Trust and beer multinational Heineken; other projects around the country getting similar treatment include fundraising for a documentary about the war memorial-slash-swimming-pool in Waikiki, and fundraising for the restoration of some glass sidewalks in Seattle.)

Materials for the campaign (which also has the backing of the Astrodome Conservancy) say the event would “preview the Astrodome’s future use” (assuming no laws that happen to prevent a certain aging Dome from getting remodeled pass in Austin this summer). Details on what such a festival would actually look like are scarce, though some good examples of what not to aim for have been floated recently.

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Prepping for DomeFest
03/20/17 4:30pm

STATE COMMITTEE OKAYS BILL TO REQUIRE ‘CERTAIN COUNTIES’ TO VOTE ON ASTRODOME PARKING GARAGE-IFICATION Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage PlansThe Texas senate’s committee on intergovernmental relations gave an early stamp of approval to that bill that would require Harris County to hold a vote on the plan recently set in motion to turn the Astrodome’s sunken field into an underground parking garage, Mihir Zaveri notes in the Chronicle this morning. The bill’s language doesn’t explicitly single out the Dome and the county commissioners; it would just mandate that “certain counties” — those with a population of 3.3 million or more — would need to call a vote on work related to “certain sports facilities” if the price tag of a given project reaches $10 million — namely, those sports facilities already more than 50 years old when the bill passes. (Harris County, with a population estimated around 4.5 million, is the only Texas county that comes remotely close to passing the bill’s size threshold.) [Houston Chronicle; Texas Legislature; previously on Swamplot] Schematic of Astrodome parking plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

02/28/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD ON THE EIGHTH WONDER’S EMERGENCY HOUSING LEGACY Astrodome“We’ve already got a built structure that has housed people in distress before. We are already paying millions of dollars a year in upkeep for a useless building. Showers, bathrooms, food prep, these services all already exist in this space. We’ve got a round peg, let’s just fit it into the round hole: The Astrodome is the perfect building to house our homeless!” [toasty, commenting on Mansion Flats Reincarnated; What a Homeless Campground Might Cost; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/10/17 5:45pm

JUDGE EMMETT ON THE NEW PLAN TO REIN IN THE NEW ASTRODOME PLAN Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage PlansHere’s the statement judge Ed Emmett’s office just released to FOX26 in response to this afternoon’s news of District 15 senator John Whitmire’s about-to-be-filed bill to require a Harris County voter okay on that plan to turn the Astrodome’s bottom into a parking garage: “It’s frustrating that while the Astrodome stood vacant for more than 15 years, very few people stepped forward to offer real solutions. But now that we on Commissioners Court have finally arrived at a way to preserve the Dome as a revenue-generating asset for the people of Harris County, Sen. Whitmire’s legislation risks derailing that solution. The Astrodome is a paid-for asset that needs to be used for the benefit of the overall NRG Park complex. Creating more than 8 acres of covered usable space along with 1,400 indoor parking spaces will generate revenue that will allow the county to maintain NRG Stadium and the rest of the complex.” The bill could potentially shut down the parking garage plan, if county-wide support can’t be mustered to support the project; demolition plans, on the other hand, are now subject to review by the Texas Historical Commission, as of late last month’s State Antiquities Landmark designation. [FOX26; previously on Swamplot] Astrodome parking plan schematic: Harris County Engineering Department

01/27/17 3:00pm

Astrodome Super Bowl Lighting Rendering
 
After a few years of mulling it over, the Texas Historical Commission voted this morning to give State Antiquities Landmark status to the Astrodome (formally known, the agency notes, as the Harris County Domed Stadium). About a dozen Houston buildings have the designation (which can also go to shipwrecks and archaeological sites); the status means that any attempts to “remove, alter, damage, salvage, or excavate” the Dome — a spread of activity which probably includes installing that parking garage in the bottom — will now also need a permit from the state. 

THC’s Executive Director Mark Wolfe says in this morning’s statement that the Dome is “one of the most significant sports and entertainment venues in history, setting the standard for modern facilities around the world.” The structure will continue adding to its sports resume during the impending Super Bowl week by storing Super Bowl-related things and being lit up nearby (as rendered above).

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Under State Protection
01/25/17 4:00pm

Astrodome Super Bowl Lighting Rendering

Judge Emmett’s office passes along the rendering above today, showing plans for the Astrodome’s Super Bowl vestment — namely, a new swath of blue-green lighting around the stadium’s exterior wall. That proposed projected light show on the roof got shot down in the fall, along with the possibility of holding any events in the building; Brent Schrotenboer of USAtoday notes the Dome currently holds the distinction of “biggest and most famous storage facility in Texas,” however, and as such will be carrying out its related stuff-holding duties for a variety of Super Bowl lead-up events. 

Rendering of Astrodome Super Bowl lighting: Super Bowl Host Committee

Local Color
12/07/16 11:00am

TALK ASTRODOME TOMORROW WITH THE GUYS THAT WROTE THE BOOK ON IT Book by Robert C. Trumpbour and Kenneth WomackThere’s a new tell-all biography of the Astrodome out this fall, now that year 50 since the stadium’s mid-1965 opening has wrapped up. Robert C. Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack’s The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome covers Dome history from its development days, and gets into how the building shaped Houston and Houston’s reputation. The authors, one of whom has also written another book about stadium construction politics, will be in town tomorrow night for a free talk and book signing  — you can check out the when-and-where and RSVP here. The book includes what University of Nebraska Press refers to as some of the structure’s more “memorable problems, such as outfielders’ inability to see fly balls and failed attempts to grow natural grass — which ultimately led to the development of Astroturf.” The text also touches on some of the most recent will-they-won’t-they preservation scuffles— though its publication date precedes this year’s approval by Harris County of initial funding for that plan to turn the bottom levels of the stadium into a parking garage.  [University of Nebraska Press] Image of book cover: University of Nebraska Press

11/07/16 12:30pm

NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS TO GATHER IN HOUSTON, GAWK AT ASTRODOME AstrodomeThe National Trust for Historic Preservation — that’d be the folks that coined the ‘orgy of irrational destruction’ line picked up by Save the Bungalows a few years back — is holding its annual conference in Houston for the first time, starting next Tuesday. Current president Stephanie Meeks cites the city’s “compelling preservation story,” amid a regional lack of preservation-minded rules and regulations, as a reason for picking the city. Planned field trip locales include the Astrodome (currently getting ready for that basement parking garage remodel), as well as Mission Control, the artsifying warehouses and industrial facilities around Washington Ave., and a handful of Galveston historic districts. Also on the docket: the debut of the organization’s Atlas of ReUrbanism (a digital collection of built environment data aimed public officials, reporters, and other city data scavengers), for which Houston is one of 5 starter cities. Would-be attendees can catch some conference sessions next Tuesday through Friday in the neighborhood of the newly-game-faced George R. Brown Convention Center; those who don’t want to make the trip downtown can watch some sessions at home. [Previously on SwamplotPhoto of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/28/16 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SAVE-THE-DOME SAGA’S PARKING GARAGE ENDING LEAVES ROOM FOR A SEQUEL astrodome“I think people are missing the larger view here. Of course there is plenty of current surface parking — but putting parking beneath the Dome begins to open up the possibility of densification on this site and on the old Astroworld site. This is the first, and necessary, step in transforming this entire area. I am betting that in 20 years or so this site will barely resemble the vast wasteland of parking lots and open space that it is today.” [SH, commenting on County Approves First $10.5 Million for Astrodome Basement Parking Garage Plan] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/27/16 11:30am

COUNTY APPROVES FIRST $10.5 MILLION FOR ASTRODOME BASEMENT PARKING GARAGE PLAN Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage PlansThe Harris County commissioner’s court voted this morning to approve the design phase of that plan to fill in the Astrodome’s below-grade levels with a 2-story parking garage. Mihir Zavari writes that today’s vote okayed the first tenth of the estimated $105 million cost, which the commissioners say will be split between hotel taxes, parking revenue, and the county’s general fund; Zavari notes that “the general fund component, around $30 million, is roughly equivalent to the amount the county estimates it would cost to demolish the Dome.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Image of Astrodome parking garage conversion plans: Harris County Engineering Department

09/21/16 1:00pm

ABOUT THAT TIME SOME SEX-FOCUSED TENNIS STARS BATTLED IT OUT ON THE FLOOR OF THE ASTRODOME AstroWorld Hotel postcard, arch-ive.orgCraig Hlavaty digs into some ‘Dome history this week on the anniversary of the so-called Battle of the Sexes: the 1973 tennis match in which then-50-year-old Bobby Riggs tried and failed to “put [29-year-old] Billie Jean King and all the other Women’s Libbers back where they belong – in the kitchen and the bedroom,” as he reportedly promised in a deliberately hype-provoking pre-match interview. Hlavaty writes that the event (still the most-watched match in tennis teevee history) belongs on the roster of epic Astrodome happenings “right next to Evel Knievel jumping 13 cars on a motorcycle, Wrestlemania X-Seven (the 17th, if you can smell what the Rock is cooking), and those 6 Elvis Presley shows.” Hlavaty also notes that Riggs stayed in the decked-out Tarzan Room at the nearby AstroWorld Hotel, complete with “actual rope swing, leopard-skin everything, green plastic jungle greenery, and green shag carpet to mimic jungle grass. You can still stay in a version of the room at the hotel, now a Crowne Plaza.” [Houston Chronicle; Astrodome coverage] Postcard of AstroWorld Hotel: arch-ive.org

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):

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Saving NRG