Behind the Rodeo and Texans’ Latest Scheme To Get Rid of the Astrodome in Their Midst

Astrodome Blocking Circulation Diagram from Rodeo and Texans ProposalSwamplot will dig into some of the more entertaining and eye-opening details of the proposal later. But in the meantime, before folks go around shouting “heck, yeah!”, hyperventilating, or considering it all but a done deal, you might want to make note of a few circumstances surrounding the release of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans‘ 37-page illustrated guide to spending $66 million of somebody’s money to tear down the Astrodome and build a memorial park and “Hall of Fame” in its place.

The proposal was leaked to reporters yesterday — likely before the Rodeo and the Texans had planned, a source tells Swamplot. (A sample “huh?” slide from it is illustrated above.) Nevertheless, the release marks the latest evolution in the 2 organizations’ willingness to publicly acknowledge their (likely longstanding) role as the foremost opponents of preserving the Astrodome in any form. (Last year the Rodeo and the Texans released a cost estimate for turning the Dome into a parking lot.) Whether this is a concerted strategy in the organizations’ campaign to kill the Dome or a fumble, it does signal a possible risk for them: What would happen if the until-now-growing sense among many Houstonians that everything possible has been tried and somehow mysteriously “won’t work” (blow up the place already, I’m tired of hearing about it!) gave way to a realization that the same 2 parties may have, in fact, been responsible for bungling, blocking, discouraging, sabotaging, or outright vetoing every single proposal for saving or revamping the Astrodome over the last dozen years? Would it kill all the seeming public-sentiment victories they’ve achieved so far?


The Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier finds 2 county commissioners already declaring all-but-outright approval for the demolition plan, and a majority open to considering it — even though it hasn’t been formally proposed to them. But Judge Emmett is against it. “Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has been — and remains — opposed to any plans to demolish the Astrodome. Period,” his spokesperson tweeted yesterday. And the judge called the plan a “non-story” in an interview with Fox26.

But the plan does have one thing going for it: The Rodeo and the Texans will likely be willing to pay for some of it. “[Rodeo COO Leroy] Shafer and Texans President Jamey Rootes said they are open to helping foot the bill for the project, describing it as ‘affordable,’ but would not say how much they would contribute.”

Image: Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Houston Texans

Dome-Be-Gone for $66 Million

37 Comment

  • Gut the dome down to a skeleton frame and roof ….. make a green area under the roof.
    In Houston it all makes sense to convert it into a big SHADED area out of the sun and rain, with plenty of ventilation, for gatherings/tailgating/etc. The cost to preserve this Houston treasure would be minimal.

  • Tear down a building to make room for a monument commemorating the building you just tore down. Yeah, that’s a Houston idea.

  • Yeah, I read about this yesterday. This is certainly not a shock. The Texans and the Rodeo want to control that land and make money off of it. The tribute to the Dome they spoke of was so laughable, I mean what better tribute than to rip it down. At this point, though I love the Astrodome, maybe it’s time to let it go. It seems they’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. It will be a sad day for me when they tear down this engineering marvel, but I really don’t see that choice they have. They’ve let it deteriorate and have ripped all the seats and history out of the building. The County Judge has postured so much on the Dome, he’s going to need a Chiropractor. So in the end, maybe it’s time to bid the Dome a fond farewell, frankly it’s nothing short of shocking how long it’s taken Houston to tear it down, it’s a tribute to how iconic this building is too many native Houstonians. I hate to see the greedy Texans get even more revenue streams as they continue to put out such a shitty product, year after year, but whatever.

  • Blow up the place already. I’m tired of hearing about it.

  • i like how the caption reads the astrodome impedes circulation flow…..IT WAS THERE FIRST. They designed the buildings/stadiums to go around it…..they could have designed it differently to not let the dome impede on flow. what a crazy thing to say.

  • I think the proposed space is somewhat of a compromise between the Rodeo/Texans’ desire to create a parking lot versus just leaving the Dome to sit and rot. It costs millions of dollars each year in its current dilapidated state, and the fear that the Dome may soon be deemed a historic landmark (whereby nobody will be able to do anything with it) means they’d rather try to develop the site into a new and useful space that simultaneously memorializes the Dome.
    Alternatively, my source (credibility TBD) tells me that the Rodeo/Texans plan to pay for the majority of the work.
    HLSR actually sent an e-mail this morning requesting that I participate in a survey on this topic. I’m not sure how many received the survey.
    The survey came with this note:
    “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeoâ„¢ would greatly appreciate you taking the time to participate in a short survey regarding the future of the NRG Astrodome. As a Show supporter, we value your opinion. Thank you for your input.”
    Embedded in the survey is a link to view plans on the HLSR website:

  • I like the idea of a green space; it makes the walk from the rail stop to the stadium a little more pleasant. But it’d be nice if a little more of the original structure remained, like maybe the frame of the roof, to be more reminiscent of what once stood there.
    The mini-astrodome in the middle is a little silly. (“What is this? An Astrodome for ants?!?”)

  • WR is right! Preserve it somehow. Make it a green space that is covered and can be used by Texans, Rodeo, and OTC.

  • Convert it to high density apartments…with first floor retail…

  • i distrust bob mcnair and the rodeo on this issue. though i’m looking for ulterior, profit-driven motives i do like the idea of park space as an integral way to preserve some remembrance of the astrodome’s importance to local history. to combat global warming, i imagine exchanging concrete for the greenery alone could drop surface temperatures in the whole city by a degree or two.

  • “Green space”??? With this proposal it would be a non-shaded baking surface. And a “green space” you’d have to pay for parking to “enjoy”.

  • What would Roy do? The Grand Promoter would know the highest and best use of the Dome would be a climate controlled mausoleum. He’d do for August funerals what he did for August baseball – Cool ’em.

    The conversion would be relatively inexpensive-No major HVAC rehab, the public areas would require limited upgrades, and most importantly, the asbestos wouldn’t need abating.

    Why not a true Memorial?

  • Memebag for comment of the day!

  • i’m all for demoing it and moving on from this boondoggle, but i can’t possibly fathom why we’d want to build and pay for a large park right in the middle of a sports stadium /convention area with no free public access and a horrid location for most all houstonians. what percentage of houstonians actually goes to this stadium anyhow? aren’t we talking about a very small minority?
    why not turn the space into a large parking garage, free up a lot of space along Main St. for commercial development and use the tax revenue to either buttress existing parks that already exist along the rail route or create new ones areas that are desperately lacking. i’ve said it a thousand times, but this city doesn’t need more parks, we’re one of the greenest cities in the entire country, but better parks.
    whatever we do, do not give the rodeo-industrial complex a free park for them to make insane profits on while houstonians pick up the tab. dumb, dumb, dumb, stupid.

  • The Astrodome is currently protected by the state and cannot be demolished. My/Ted Powell’s nomination for State Antiquities Landmark status has been approved by the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The only way it could be torn down is if the THC gave them permission, and that isn’t going to happen. At their advisory board meeting in Fort Worth, which Ted and I attended, the chairman clearly stated that the Astrodome was one of the most important buildings in the world. You think because the Texans and Rodeo want it out of their way that will make them change their mind? The THC is in the business of preserving buildings, not destroying them. I, along with Dene Hofheinz (daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz who envisioned and built the Dome) will be at the THC board meeting July 30 in Alpine, Texas when they seal the Dome’s protection for once and for all. THEN state and federal money will become available to help restore it to be used again and become self-sufficient. Many of the great ideas already proposed, and summarily rejected by the Sports & Convention Corp. that let it ruin, can be combined to make it a spectacular place to utilize by taxpayers once again.

  • The AstroDome “impedes the circulation flow” of the other stuff in Reliant Park? The other stuff that was built up around it? You don’t say? Boy, the stuff people think of….

  • i like how the caption reads the astrodome impedes circulation flow…..IT WAS THERE FIRST. They designed the buildings/stadiums to go around it…..they could have designed it differently to not let the dome impede on flow. what a crazy thing to say.

    I somehow missed this great comment!

  • This whole dome business reminds me of an old French movie “The King of Hearts”. Basically the only sane people were those in the lunatic asylum. The real nutters were those outside running the real world.

    Hey, I got it. Lets tear down the dome and build an indoor stadium for baseball, football and the rodeo. Then we can tear down Reliant Stadium since it will be in the way and the space will be needed for parking.

  • I’m a lifelong Houstonian whose fondest childhood memories are those of attending games and various events at the Astrodome. I understand the historical significance the Astrodome had in redefining the way professional sporting facilities were constructed. I appreciate the awe-inspiring vastness of the place with its midcentury mod, space age look.

    That being said, it has outlived its purpose. It was built to be a sporting venue, not as a spiritual house of worship or a monument meant to be preserved into eternity. Trying to repurpose it into some sort of commercial venue was always doomed to failure due its location with the Texans and Rodeo effectively preventing the general public from reaching it for some 30-40% of the year. I voted against the convention center as that was just a money grab to those greedy entities to polish up the place to serve only the corporate interests. I think this proposal is finally a good compromise. It’s a tribute to the place, adds some nice green space to a sea of pavement, and is a hell of a lot better than paving it over for some extra parking or turning it into another convention center.

    It’s time to tear it down people. It’s time to let it go.

  • WR
    July 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm
    Gut the dome down to a skeleton frame and roof ….. make a green area under the roof.
    In Houston it all makes sense to convert it into a big SHADED area out of the sun and rain, with plenty of ventilation, for gatherings/tailgating/etc. The cost to preserve this Houston treasure would be minimal.
    Great idea and a good compromise. Their itching to tear it down so let’s at least get an innovative transformation out of the deal. An open vast green park under a skeleton frame and roof is acceptable. Outdoor concerts/events would be possible: a massive Miller Outdoor/Cynthia Woods Mitchell type of venue. Add some state-of-the-art lighting and maybe some cooling water features (i.e. Galleria/Hines Park Waterwall), and it’s a ‘Wonder’ of a place again. All this might cost a reasonable amount more, but not too much that it’s cost prohibitive. But you’re right, without a roof/cover, it’s stupid…people will melt, fry and bake on very hot Summer days. They better make sure it’s at least covered.

  • @Cynthia Neely

    thanks for your advocacy of this historic structure. after july 30, i indeed hope the best re-purposing proposal wins state & federal dollars to save our historic structure. let’s continue to stand strong against the vile greed who cares little for the community and preservation of this icon.

  • The survey on the Rodeo website is calling their demolition plan a “reuse” of the Astrodome. It’s very confusingly worded to get people to think that by picking the plan, they are going to save the Astrodome. Then I’m sure they will wave the poll results around John Culberson-style and say they have public support.

  • “The Rodeo and the Texans will likely be willing to pay for some of it. “[Rodeo COO Leroy] Shafer and Texans President Jamey Rootes said they are open to helping foot the bill for the project, describing it as ‘affordable,’ but would not say how much they would contribute.”

    Well, that’s mighty nice of the Texans and the HLSR to get out their change purse and throw a few coins to help accomplish their idea of what they want NRG ( Reliant) Park to look like. Given that both of these organizations have lived off Harris County taxpayer’s largess for a a while now.

    And I really like Memebag’s comment. It’s so very Houston!

  • Here is a thought, take out the seats, let the stupid redneck rodeo have their carnival and food stands indoors, and call it a day. Maybe cordon off some for some smaller events, or music? I mean geez, it’s a giant space without seats they could easily find a use for it. Some Houstonians actually appreciate our history, not Hou$ton’s idea of paving over it.

  • I really dislike this proposal for an astrodome graveyard. Tear is down in favor or a park, more parking or whatever, but this sort dome tombstone thing is weird.

    Beauty and purpose are the real reasons buildings are preserved. You can make an argument that the dome is beautiful. But, as a community, we’ve made sure that it no longer has a purpose. I can’t applaud Cynthia and Ted for their efforts. The historic designation they are seeking will only prolong the pain of watching the decay of what is essentially an abandoned building which will continue to remind us that we are not the city we once thought we were.

  • I am not really opposed to this plan, something does need to be done with it. I have gone to the Dome all my life and while it holds some sentimental value, its’ time has come. What I am opposed to is the disingenuine comment that the Rodeo and Bob McNair will contribute, both groups have been on the county tit far too long and are full of shit. In their minds a contributio will be to throw a few coins into the pot and then beat their chests about how much it costs them and how the tax payers should restructure their debt for them. I also find it offensive to attempt to make comparisons to Discovery Green. If they want to compare it to Discovery Green, let’s see the detailed plan which will include taking down the fences so that all citizens can use the facility.

  • Why in the Wide Wide World of Sports would anyone tear down a historical sports icon, THEN build some sort of ruins-looking structure resembling it’s bones? Why not just preserve it? If we do that, there will be myriad uses for the space. Remember when Ringling Brothers Circus wintered in the Astrohall? (for instance)

  • I agree with WR.
    Take it down to a skeleton. Leave the roof. Level the floor so it can be driven on and used for multi-purpose.
    Cheap and easy and useful and solves every single problem.
    Imagine the fun of driving through it for kids. It could be used as extra shaded area for Rodeo cookouts and tailgate parties for football games.
    It’s really the perfect solution.

  • I’ll start this with “I am NOT a native Houstonian’. But I do love living here. My take on the Astrodome is that it was a really cool innovative architectural feat in it’s day. Which was almost 50 years ago and hasn’t been used (productively) in almost 15 years ago. Every time I walk around it, I respect it for its time and place but now it kind of feels like grandma putting all her junk in the attic. Keeping it around for keeps sake. And eventually someone else will have to move on and clean up the mess.
    The continuous postponement of the inevitable is nauseating. Houston has such a greater identity than an old sports stadium that was the first of its kind. I mean the ‘dome was cool but do we really want to a monument to a building we played games in. It’s not like it was a great moment in American history that people will come on vacation to visit. Time to cut the costs and stop asking taxpayers to subsidize a old venue that will never be economically sustainable. I’m all for anything costs less than $66 mil.

  • PS to my comment.
    What about adding a Vegas style light show under the roof at night?
    Use the entire roof as a screen top and bottom?
    It would be spectacular.

    Oh and everyone calling the Dome ugly. Have you seen Reliant Stadium? Sheesh.

  • If they are trying to control land that they do not own and do not pay for while manipulating or ignoring taxpayers, then they will not pay for “some of it” – they will pay for all of it, including the last fourteen years of upkeep that the taxpayers have paid due to their obstructionism. I want my tax money back.

  • WR’s comment about gutting it to a skeleton form and roof with a green space was already proposed last year before the Houston Sports authority came up with the convention center idea (that crashed and burned at the voting booth).
    There was a UH grad student who wrote his thesis on repurposing the Astrodome just like WR described. It received a lot of news coverage around March of last year. I think it’s a great idea and don’t understand now that the convention center idea is dead why don’t they look at some of the other proposals they got last year. Including the grad student. His name is Ryan Slattery. KHOU did a report on him and you can see it and other media coverage by googling Ryan Slattery Astrodome. It was the first of its kind.

  • Given that another Swamplot article is about Houston’s smallest parklet, here’s a radical idea: Let’s tear down the Dome and make 50,000 parklets – then smoosh them together.
    County Judge Emmett can steal the idea from Mayor Parker and that kerfluffle can be part of a different story. Meow.

  • I’m so in favor of the Texans/Rodeo plan to turn the astrodome relic into a park while paying homage to the history. I’m suspicious of county and city leaders who oppose the plan in favor of an expensive boondoggle with lots of public money flowing to friends/backers of said leaders. The Texans/Rodeo are two of the most important organizations in the city. The voters have already rejected the boondoggle idea. The astrodome looks awful. Its time to move on and putting some green in a vast sea of cement is a capital idea.

  • I am glad that other civilizations didn’t think the way we do in Houston, hey those pyramids are not being used let’s tear them down. We could use this space taken up by this coliseum in Rome to park more chariots let’s tear it down. I heard we can get some granite for our countertops out at Stonehenge, let’s tear it down.

  • 1. There was no “leak” unless you consider a finished presentation “leaked” to the media to give the appearance of leaking and thus add to its scintillating value which, apparently, worked. It was deliberate. It’s called marketing. Real leaks are not usually provided in completed form.
    2. The Dome will be under the protection of the Texas Historical Commission, which neither Emmett nor is cronies are too thrilled with because then they cannot pursue any of their boneheaded ideas without THC clearance. The Dome is a cultural, historical asset, not an inconvenience in the path of Harris County’s plans for the Super Dome. Neither Emmett, nor The Houston Sports Authority, nor The Houston Livestock Rodeo folks are preservationists , historians, or structural engineers and therefore cannot speak with any authority about the Dome’s enduring historic value or its structural integrity. Certainly, the few citizens who think it an eyesore cannot. The Dome is being cast as the villain in the way of garnering sporting event receipts, which demonstrates a gross neglect by those agencies and public figures favoring its demolition of the citizens right to its cultural heritage, and the county’s duty to preserve it.
    3. The County did a marvelous job in protecting Texan’s heritage with the restoration of the Harris County Court House. Yet where was the hue and cry over restoring this long-abandoned shell of a building which used millions of taxpayer dollars to restore? Where was the referendum? Not a peep, despite the fact that it sat for years as a prominent eyesore downtown. But, then, there was no Super Bowl at stake, either.
    4. The Dome is not the problem. Its stewards are; they have allowed it, willfully, to fall into disrepair and become an eyesore. It’s stewardship should be shifted to the THC who know best what it represents in terms of historic value. The Dome is not some cheep flea-market knock-off to be tossed aside, in favor of some immediate sensation or event. Its a living reminder and testament to Houston leadership and civic duty. It can be re-purposed in a million meaningful ways, if the city leaders would put aside their SuperBowl Mania long enough to consider them .

  • @Cynthia Neely:

    First of all, thank you and the other folks for your hard work in bringing the Dome to the Texas Historical Commission. It has made history in so many ways.

    Regarding the Commission, let’s take a look at one of their official sites: Rollover Fish Pass in Gilchrist on the Bolivar Peninsula. Remember the “Last House Standing” from the Hurricane Ike photos? That’s the place. Marker Number 7166.

    Since 2008 this historic site has been ignored, vilified, bullied and attacked by land-grabbers headed by our own General Land Office (Jerry Patterson, soon-to-be former commissioner.) Residents of the area (Gilchrist Community Association, encompassing members from all over the country) have filed a federal lawsuit in the 5th U.S. District Court, Galveston, to keep their beloved pass open to all persons of every class and income status for family enjoyment (Civil Action No. 3:13-CV-00126). It is a crucial component for the seafood, wildlife and fishing industries in Galveston Bay. Joining the Gulf waters with those of the East Bay, this pass allows millions of fresh and salt water creatures to pass back and forth to spawn and feed.

    Your FEMA tax dollars have been paid to the THC for replacement of the historical marker damaged by the hurricane. Where is it?? In the clutches of the Galveston County Historical Commission, who want to rewrite history not revere it.

    The most important revenue-attracting area in the entire peninsula is being threatened by people who think that their way of managing things from a zillion miles away in Austin is going to be the answer to everyone’s woes. They have resorted to disseminating false information and “bribes” to Galveston county officials ($1.5 mil) using your tax dollars to attempt a takeover of this private historical property.

    The point is this: The THC has a big stick. Why aren’t they poking Galveston with it? Why is Rollover Pass/Gilchrist suffering while still rebuilding despite sabotage by their (and our) own elected representatives?

    I see a striking similarity here. The Dome is the reason many people are attracted to, and stay in, Houston. Both are unique to their area. Both were (and still are) a marvel when they were constructed. And both are being threatened.

    The scrappy residents of Gilchrist aren’t backing down. After losing everything, what more is left to loose? And what kind of person would so cruelly try to take their private property and livelihood?

    To HeyHeyHouston, I’ve personally met MANY people who have come specifically to the Dome on their vacation who wanted to see history. They were awestruck, and not just because of the sports played inside. Remember, grandma’s attic can always be refurbished into a loft.

    For those who despise, ignore or denigrate history, the lessons therein will have to be learned personally — and they may be very hard lessons indeed. Houston, just like Gilchrist, can rise up to the occasion and can embrace and enhance the piece of history that has put it on the map.

    (see,, with keyword searches)