Astrodome Renovation Budget Isn’t Enough for Air Conditioning, Says County Judge Lina Hidalgo

ASTRODOME RENOVATION BUDGET ISN’T ENOUGH FOR AIR CONDITIONING, SAYS COUNTY JUDGE LINA HIDALGO While looking into those Astrodome renovation plans to raise the floor and slip 2 levels of parking underneath it that the previous commissioners court set aside money for last April, new Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo appears to have had a revelation: “What I’m discovering,” she tells Houston Matters’s Craig Cohen on air yesterday, “is that the 105 [million dollars] that was allocated is not enough to air condition the building.” And so she asks: “Is the current design enough for folks to actually want to rent it out? I don’t want this to be a white elephant,” she says. “So that’s what I’m trying to figure out.” [Houston Public Media] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

37 Comment

  • “What I’m discovering,”… “is that the 105 [million dollars] that was allocated is not enough to air condition the building.” ….. THAT was known by the previous Commisioner’s Court. It was just a way to get the money for the extra parking to help enrich McNair and get the public off their backs

  • Well with all the historic preservation already assigned to the building, demolition isn’t an option. She better figure it out asap. We need this building.

  • Yet another reason to just tear down this damned thing, or sell it to private interests. Then THEY will tear it down. Win-win.

  • i do believe that we have already decided to use it and redo it . So for Goodness sake DO NOT think about tearing the Astrodome down again . this is not how you start your job and I voted for you !!

  • The Astrodome, Houston’s money pit.

  • We don’t need this building, any more than we need a wall, but through a county commissioner boondoggle they sold us a bill of goods. If they really knew that this wouldn’t even cover the air conditioning maybe there should be some kind of an inquiry held. So now we have a building that we can’t pay for, and we still have to pay the upkeep on it. That just doesn’t make any sense and it will just get worse over time. This was a terrible idea in the first place. They could have used the students plan to save the super structure, add parking and a green space with trees and made this a really nice monument and park to the Judge, but instead they had to come up with a million bad ideas and a plan to lose millions. I will say once more we didn’t need this building. A few wanted to save it. Let those that wanted to save it come up with private funds for this stupidity

  • I’m looking forward to seeing this asset of the taxpayers returned to a usable condition!

  • I listen to the whole interview with Lina Hidalgo and I was very impressed. I think she’ll do good job – she seems very competent.

  • A no longer useful and long replaced in purpose building is of course no longer useful and spending $105 million to retrofit it for a non-existent demand is ill conceived.

  • The original 2013 ballot proposition only got 47% “yes” votes. Opponents got 53%. Hardly a rousing endorsement to saving Old Betsy. If the 2013 ballot had been written like this, we’d have a crystal clear mandate – to tear it down:

    1. Spend $217 million to sort of fix it.
    2. Don’t spend another dime on it.
    3. Spend $217 million to tear it down.

    As such, the former county judge had to come up with Plan B to get this albatross through – so he came up with the “bargain” $105 million to do a nip/tuck. Now, we’re finding out that it won’t be enough cash to even put some decent A/C in the place.

    Time to let it go – or let private industry handle it.

  • If they can demolish “The House That Ruth Built”, then the Astrodome should meet the same fate. Bring it down and move on. It is simply time.

  • Tear down that god-awful ugly Minute Maid Park and make the Astros play in the Astrodome again…

  • Make it a multi level parking garage. No ac required…. win/win

  • Has anyone bothered to see if she’s telling the truth? Bob R-don’t worry. Massive boondoggles are a hallmark of her party. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

  • The Astrodome fiasco is exactly the reason I explicitly voted against Ed. I would love for it to be demolished, but with it’s historical protections it seems unlikely now. I hope the new commissioner’s court sells it to a private entity so that we can get his money sucker off the taxpayer’s backs.
    If I could, I’d buy it myself and tear it down, even if it came at a monetary loss for me. >:-)

  • bigben-right. I’m sure you would. Nonsense. Get some sleep.

  • A year-and-a-half ago National Geographic published the article “The 2500-Year History of Stadiums in 10 Drawings.”

    Number 1 is the Stadium at Olympia from the 5th Century BC. Number 2 is the Colosseum in Rome. Number 5 is the Astrodome.

    My advice to those who think we don’t need this building: Avert your eyes when nearby.

  • Thanks to the former clown that ran Harris County, Ed Emmett( the perfect example for 1 term LIMITS ) we the taxpayers are saddled with this white elephant that no REALLY wants. It’s a $$$$ Pit. But Mr. republican Emmet violated the LAW by bypassing the MAJORITY of Harris County voters DEMAND to tear it down. But NO. He slapped the fricking historical designation on the rotting behemoth. And by the time all of the $$$ spent on supposedly “preserving” the dump. Tha $$$ could have gone to a NEW structure. That will be Emmett’s ego monument.

  • We don’t think it’s correct to state that the Astrodome could NOT be demolished just because it received Texas Historic Landmark status by the Texas Historical Commission in Austin. We believe that if the Astrodome became or was becoming a white elephant of cost over runs, the HC Commissioners Court could vote to revoke the THC landmark status and demolish the HC owned property.

    Ed Emmett stated in 2016 the estimated cost to demolish the Astrodome would be between 29 and 78 million dollars. This huge discrepancy in cost seems more like a guesstimate than an actual estimate. Based on other demolition costs for similar sized stadiums, we believe the actual cost would be no more than 20 million dollars. Also, the dome is full of many hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel, cooper & aluminum that can and should be sold as salvage material.

    The last thing we want, is to see the Astrodome demolished, but its easy to imagine that fate if the county pursues a painstaking, historically accurate restoration approach. We believe the potential for cost over runs is very great if this approach is taken. There are approximately 2 million square feet of exterior non structural surfaces to be restored on the Astrodome. If you apply a conservative $40 per square foot estimate you have an $80 million dollar cost for that scope of work alone.

    Lets use the the same funding method used for Discovery Green 90% privately funded.

  • A-Dome Park is the answer. A-Dome Park will be 90% privately funded just like Discovery Green. Please email judge Lina Hidalgo in support of our proposal.

    Judge Lina’s email:

  • @J…. you seem to have some short term memory loss. This boondoggle was a direct product of Ed Emmets’ hard on. That (R) boy pined over the A-dome like it was Houston’s version of the Hagia F’in Sophia. Loved it so much he saddled the populace with the bill.

  • The issue of air conditioning in the Astrodome has become controversial, again. This advice we submitted to the Conservancy, the THC, and other Astrodome stakeholders in August of 2017 bears repeating:

    The issue of air conditioning

    We urge Harris County, the Conservancy, and the THC to recognize the importance of air conditioning, and to
    commit to developing a plan and methodologies for achieving an air-conditioned interior environment for the future, whether short or long term.

    Our reasons:

    • Air conditioning is part of the historical fabric
    • One original purpose of the Astrodome was to be an air-conditioned space
    • The Dome was the FIRST air-conditioned stadium

    • Comfort for guests requires it. We fear that without air conditioning, the Astrodome interior will be rendered unusable and its floor space unleasable for more than half of each year.

    • Modern innovations allow AC that is significantly more sustainable

    • Electricity cost of AC operation can be completely negated as an issue by installing conventional rooftop solar generating capacity atop NRG Center, with its more than ten acres of flat roof.

    Chris Alexander & Karen Tisdel

  • rip it down. sell the steel for recycling. there’s plenty of parking, there’s plenty of space in the existing parking lot next to the dome to build a parking garage. they already own the vacant land on the other side of the loop as well. proposals to re use the dome have been commissioned since the late 1990’s. the multi million dollar proposals money always seems to fall into the pockets of some hsa-connected a&e firm.

  • WHAT?! So Ed Em lied to us?!!! Fake News?! Say it ain’t so!!! Can we revert to that previous proposed less of a boondoggle plan to build a Biopark of sorts?!

  • @James Richards
    It’s a nice concept.
    Two questions:
    1. why only live oaks?
    2. why not have other ways to get to the top (and to get back down)? Shortcuts to complement the spiral (and allow for emergency egress)..

  • VERY nice bill_b! Now if that does not say something, I do not know what does…

  • There was an article out by the Houston Chronicle quite a few years back that estimated the cost to Harris County of maintaining the Astrodome in mothballs perpetually as at nearly $500k per year. That seems like a lot of money. It sounds wasteful, and it is; but the end-of-life costs of a project are committed to when a project is undertaken. Everybody who committed to today’s waste is long since dead.
    Starting from scratch on a new project, the payback period for demolishing the Astrodome, if demolition only costs $20 million, would be forty (40) (four-zero) years! A perpetuity on investment in demolition would be a meager 2.5%. And this is the optimistic case! Given this, I have to think that Harris County can very easily find things that are a higher priority to spend its money on than demolition. Regardless of what happens to the structure, and even if nothing happens to it — FOREVER — it is plain to see that demolition should be completely off the table.
    As for doing what Harris County is doing now, yeah…I am also inclined to believe that it is probably an even worse investment.
    In a sane world without implicit political barriers erected by the Texans and the HLS&R to private redevelopment of this structure, where a private developer could invest resources toward a realistic plan and actually believe that they had a shot at making it happen, I think that there would be no shortage of good ideas or the capital to back them. I strongly believe that the Astrodome would have a positive value, that it could be sold for money. But for now, in this world that we live in, simply do nothing. Leave it alone. Let it be.
    Wait patiently for the day (coming soon, no doubt) that the Texans demand a new stadium or for a brief and highly opportune moment when HLS&R’s political sphincter muscle loosens its grip on the stick that’s been lodged up there for so long. And then seize the moment and get a deal done with the Astrodome. It might be yet another fifty years, and that is okay. Be patient.

  • As much as I despise the Astrodome I must admit that it serves a very good purpose. Nothing else in Houston could compare as a symbolic showing of america’s collective ignorance and wastefulness in both finance and sport.

  • James Richards, can ya’ll keep the roof for shade, rain, etc? It gets a little hot and can rain in Houston.

  • @bill_b…. Yup, I can see that. The Astrodome is just four (figuratively) steps away from 2,500 year old Olympia, three steps from the Roman Collosseum, two from Panathenaic Stadium in Greece, circa 331 BC, and one away from the 1908 Olympic Stadium in London.

    You realize this was just an article re: historical construction of sporting venues, right ?

  • We’re on course to set a world record for a $105 million parking garage, Woo hoo!

  • Clou.

    Just a concept, we welcome all kinds of tree species suggestions. Live Oaks are pretty iconic to Houston.
    If you review the new infrastructure tab on our website you will see there are many options to get off the ramp including elevators. Thanks for your comments. Please email Lina Hidalgo in support of our proposal:

  • CB
    Our concept is for an outdoor park just like Discovery Green and Hermann Park. Go to Hermann Park on July 4th and you will see Thousands of people outside enjoying and basking in the Houston Summer.

  • Chris Alexander,

    First, Thanks for using your actual name in the comments.

    The death spiral of Ed’s plan is just beginning to get underway.

    Please consider setting your ego and nostalgia for the dome aside and join our cause to transform the Astrodome into an outdoor active urban park. A water absorbing cooling oasis for for the collective benefit of all, and especially the poor and underprivileged. We are even including an Astrodome museum (passively cooled) in our programming for the nostalgic few. We are also implementing your solar farm comment. Best regards,

  • Chris Alexander,
    I supported the 2013 proposal and I support the current plan. I too think the Astrodome is far too historically significant to radically alter or demolish. Your solar A/C suggestion sounds excellent to me. Is it also possible to install solar panels or something similar on the roof of the Dome itself?

  • Bill,
    With all due respect, the thing that is overwhelmingly historically significant about the Astrodome is the Magnificent structural engineering hidden beneath its mediocre and crumbling skin. The county is discovering that painstaking restoration of the Astrodome’s roof, facade, and sloped grass berms, is not economically viable from a construction and operational stand point.

    The 2013 proposal you said you supported would have radically altered the existing facades and was rejected by HC voters and outside investors alike.

    As I said to Chris, we will include an Astrodome museum in our project for those who wish to remember the past. Harris county has a tradition of forward looking world class oil & gas, and space engineering that adomepark seeks to embrace and celebrate. A-Dome Park is the answer. A-Dome Park will be 90% privately funded just like Discovery Green. Please email judge Lina Hidalgo in support of our proposal.

    Judge Lina’s email:


  • P.S. to Chris: If you have not already done so, I hope you will contact Judge Hidalgo and the other leaders in the current county administration to once again remind them of your solar A/C suggestion. I think it’s great (Why let all that potential energy and savings go to waste?) and I might do so as well. Thanks.