‘C’mon. Knock It Down. I Dare You’

‘C’MON. KNOCK IT DOWN. I DARE YOU’ Writing in the New York Times, sportswriter Jeré Longman tries to raise Houston’s burgeoning “are we really gonna demolish it?” moment to a level of national concern: “. . . it was despairing to hear that the vacant Astrodome might be torn down and its site paved over as Houston prepares to host the 2017 Super Bowl. Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.” [New York Times; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West

48 Comment

  • But… but… I thought all those Super Bowl visitors were going to be impressed by more parking!

  • I still think the right answer is to strip the Astrodome down to its primary structure, and let it remain as a public monument (UH Student Ryan Slattery’s idea). It lets us save the Dome without having to figure out what kind of program to put in there. I’s far less expensive than the “immersive” globe and hotel idea that’s being floated. And it’d allow for different uses. The space under the dome could be a grassy lawn used for outdoor concerts or just as a place to hang out.

  • Houston dispensed with zoning laws because the City had no swaggering ambition or dreamers. We were just happy that someone would build something, anything, it our hot, swampy mess of a city.

  • Following from Old School’s astute observation, it’s about time that Houston evolved.

  • @ ZAW: As you know, I take enormous pleasure in explaining why architecture students’ ideas are worthless, inane, un-doable, and generally stupid. This is an exception. I think it’s a great idea. I think that such a facility would be of enormous benefit to Reliant Park and all of its tenants.

    The Rodeo can clearly satisfy its parking requirements on its own, as evidenced by recent land acquisition. And if the Texans or the NFL need additional parking, then I am sure that the Rodeo would be amenable to leasing said land in return for money of which a tiny insignificant fraction might possibly be returned to its scholarship fund.

  • @ Old School: That the City is the only major city that has no zoning laws is evidence of swagger, ambition, dreams, and a desire that all could be achieved if we just stayed out of one another’s way. I think that that lesson is pertinent in this case and should be deeply contemplated by the Texans and the HSL&R.

  • Tomorrow’s headline:
    In Response to NY Times Editorial, the City of Houston, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the Texans Unanimously Agree to Demolish Astrodome.

  • Why do we care what a Yankee carpetbagger said? Many other cities demolished aging and obsolete domes, stadiums, buildings, etc and nobody shed a tear, why all this crying over an obsolete and non functional giant boob?

  • Chuckling at Walt’s comment.
    I do hope the UH student’s idea is considered. The Dome could be as fabulous as Hermann Park is now.

  • We could have both the shell of the Dome over a park for tailgating and Rodeo events, AND underground parking, as the structure sits over a 35-ft. hole in the ground (it took two years for them to dig it). Two levels of underground parking if they wanted that much — twice as much as a surface lot. It seems to me that an option like this comes the closest to satisfying everybody.

  • Considering how many of us Yankee carpetbaggers are now living in Houston, our opinions count as well. This ain’t no cowtown anymore folks, and it is time this city actually has a few things to be proud of. As for the other cities that demolished their stadiums and no one cared, those domes were not the first domes, this one is. Have a little sense of history.

  • Excellent point Pdiddy. It would probably not be that much more expensive to rework the hole for 3 levels of parking, and then pt a green roof on it, than to just fill it with tons and tons of select fill for the park.

  • Aside from the clearly partial parties listed by Walt, the “Slattery Plan” seems to be hugely popular. But as Judge Emmett has stated, it really comes down to viable funding. How much could we expect the city to contribute to the Skele-park? Are there private donors who could accomplish something on this scale? Would an admission fee be a no-go, and if not would it even put a dent in the total cost?

  • (I did say 3 levels, by the way. I’ve designed parking garages with 11′ floor to floor, so there’s plenty of room in a 35′ hole)

  • New York Times : Old Yankee Stadium :: Houston Chronicle : Astrodome.

  • So what if it’s the first? Doesn’t make it the best, or at this point special in any way compared to others. Shall we also lament over the first strip mall, the first public toilet, or the first DMV building?

  • Anyone thinking National Historic Landmark incoming?
    I mean, architecturally, being the first domed stadium of the size it is.
    It hosted many pivotal sporting events, The Game of the Century (1968 Coogs vs Bruins, making college basketball what it is today), the famed ‘battle of the sexes’ tennis match in the early ’70s which helped pave the way for women’s sports. Ali vs Williams. And many more pivotal events in sporting history.
    Tons of other random events, from Evil Knievel jumping things to Madonna.

  • @toasty, funny you mentioned it hosted many pivotal sporting events, but it never hosted a Super Bowl.

  • The parking under the dome would be some of the best parking at Reliant. It’ll be close and covered This would be a huge draw for VIPs and they could probably charge good money for non-VIPs to park there. The outdoor concert venue, meanwhile, could also generate income. They could also subsidize the construction by selling off parts of the dome – fans could buy a commemorative seat, or a piece of precast wall…. Combined I don’t see why these couldn’t cover the costs of the park/framework/garage idea.

  • It’s critical we do as the NYT suggest, so the folks Back East won’t think so badly of us.

  • Could they implode it or would it have to be dismantled? If dismantled the slattery idea with parking underneath is no brainier.

  • I would think an extra parking lot would need to come with a traffic plan. You cant just make a place to store cars, you have to make sure they can get in and out.

  • I say they take up a collection Houstonians donate money to make the skele-dome happen (if it is even structurally feasible). Maybe $250 for a brick with 5 words on it. Your name and three words with your greatest memory. If that doesn’t work, they just say there will be a SPCA event there once a year. You wouldn’t believe the kind of donations dogs and cats get.

  • Actually commonsense hit on a good idea, turn it into DMV !!!! this way people could stand in line in air condition for days to have their driver licence renewed. lines could wrap around each deck until you reach the top to have you picture taken, whip out $18 and pass eye test.

  • “The Astrodome will never be a major tourist attraction, I don’t care how many people around the nation and world think it should be a major tourist attraction! Stop listening to all those people who say they want to come see our dome – nobody wants to come see our dome!”
    -local heads in the sand

  • I’d like to see the astrodome stripped to its frame along with a park; paying homage to the stadium and providing some green space in the cement sea surrounding Reliant.
    Create a focul point for gatherings, events as with Discovery Green downtown. The Dome is done. Any transformation will result in the loss of its original identity. I loved the stadium and its time to move on.

  • I think the Dome is beautiful just as it stands. No reason at all to tear it down for more parking. There is plenty of parking at Reliant Park.

    Give it a good power washing before the Super Bowl. Other than that, just let it sit. It’s a monument. That’s what monuments do. They just sit there.

    There’s no reason at all to spend $50 million to tear it down. Just wait. The fact that there aren’t any compelling uses for the building now doesn’t mean there wont be a compelling use for it in the future.

    I really like the skeleton park idea. In fact I proposed the same idea on this very blog some time ago.Maybe this is the compelling reason. If not, wait for a more compelling reason.

  • The Harris County Domed Stadium (aka the Astrodome) was the first indoor stadium in the world. The Dome was conceived by Judge Roy Hoffeinz, a visionary, who wanted Houstonians to enjoy professional baseball while avoiding the oppressive heat and mosquitos. The Dome faced multiple engineering issues, but solved them (ie. massive trusses for the roof, a massive A/C system, Astroturf). The construction of the Dome itself was fascinating, with temporary derrick-like supports.

    Even if the Dome is leveled, the debt from it doesn’t go away for several more years.

  • The county is asking for proposals that wouldn’t use taxpayer funds to revitalize the Dome. But, would the county pay for it to be leveled and converted into a parking lot? Kind of hypocritical.

  • 2-3 floors of parking with youth sports fields above and/or concert space if there is room (or make some part of the fields convertible). Think a mini-Bayland Park under the dome. For big events the fields could be converted to extra tailgating space or even temporary retail (food trucks, tented exhibits, etc.) Add a designated use entrance/exit for the parking directly from 610, make it air conditioned, and charge a small mortgage for Rodeo/Texans season passes to pay for the whole thing and a fund to pay for under privileged kids to play in the leagues. How cool would it be for parents who grew up here to say their kid plays ball “in the Astrodome.” Also, engineer a functional tourist attraction to the catwalks for added off-season use and extra revenue.

  • In the immortal words of my grandmother…crap or get off the pot. Seriously, it’s an unused building on a valuable piece of property. Get rid of it. There’s no sentimentality left in it.

  • Battleship Texas needs $36million for starters… Lets put the ship in the Dome! Save them both!

  • Why do the Texans and Rodeo (and NFL) want more parking on site? The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough spaces – it’s that the traffic getting to and from those spaces is horrific, and THEN you have to walk an hour to get to the stadium/arena from your space.

  • It is fortunate that the Pantheon in Rome was not demolished for some 17th century housing project in central Rome. To this day, it is the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome.
    The dome over the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul was completed in the 600’s and covered the world’s largest enclosed space for almost a millenia.
    The Astrodome isn’t a historic wonder like those, but it was the first covered sports stadium in the world, but as Blake says, it was an important engineering achievement for it’s time.

  • What’s disturbing is the lack of action by HLS&R, The Texas and the County. It’s obvious that they want it to disappear but that they fear the ire of the public. Again…no dreamers in those offices.

  • Fill in the hole with water and call it Dome Lake, perfect for sailgating at Texans’ games.

    Blake mentioned Roy Hofheinz. How ironic that UH is on the verge of renovating that old clunker of a building while the Astrodome continues to rust away with no purpose in sight.

  • Anyone who doesn’t recognize the Astrodome as a valuable, irreplaceable, one of a kind, living monument, unique, famous, historic asset to Houston doesn’t have any imagination OR common sense.

  • “Carpetbaggers”!? What is this? 1865?

  • @BITCH, please!!!

  • …and has no life and is in desperate need of attention. What part of “irreplaceable” don’t you understand? If there was a pay toilet or DMV or strip mall ever erected in Houston that brought this city that same type of unprecedented recognition, respect and revolutionary advancement that the Astrodome did, then I would be in favor of preserving that too. Truth is, there has never been any single structure built in Houston before or since the Astrodome that elevated Houston’s standing in the world as much as the Astrodome did. It is worth preserving. Once paved over it’s gone forever. There will always be more oil money, growth, tax base in Houston, but there will never be another Astrodome. We shouldn’t allow people with limited imaginations and little common sense to decide the future of our irreplaceable icons.

  • @ Purdue

    “Astrodome”?! What is this? 1995?

    –circa 2030

  • Good grief I can’t wait for them to knock over that moldy chunk of concrete. I’m so sick of listening to these people whine about the Astrodome as if it were the cornerstone of Western civilization. We’ll get along without it just fine, just like Astroworld and NASA.

  • I’m liking the skeleton-over-parking idea, and particularly if automated racking systems were used to increase the density of cars that can be parked there. The Texans and HSL&R would surely get more spaces than they bargained for, they’d be premium spaces, and they’d generate revenue. And that is by utilizing a pre-existing asset, the hole in the ground. They’d also get a new world-class outdoor multi-purpose venue that they can both use.

  • I hate to fuss over a minor point, but people please, learn to read before going off on a carpetbagger rag. The author of the NYT article is from South Louisiana and apparently his point of view owes a lot to family trips to the dome when he was a kid.

    We still owe a lot — what, 10’s of millions — in debt payments on this structure. It behooves us to take this issue seriously, especially risk letting apathy and ignorance lead to a short-term solution that our kids will regret in the long term.

  • I agree with the comments that the Astrodome is too historic to Houston to just be imploded so the greedy Texans (still waiting for that SuperBowl) and Rodeo can have more parking. It’s comical that neither the Texans nor the Rodeo actually want to pay for the demolition, all they care about is increasing their bottom line at the expense of the Harris County Taxpayer. Houston is such an innovative city, ironically the most glaring example of that innovation is the Astrodome. Houston should use that can do attitude to come up with a use for the dome. I like the UH grad students idea. It seems that’s the perfect reuse of the dome. It maintains the structure and adds much needed greenspace in Reliant. The Texans and Rodeo will just have to make due with the Taj Mahal that the taxpayers built for them to print money.

  • The best use of the Astrodome is to make it an open-air concert pavilion similar to Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Keep a back third of the stadium to keep the history of the Dome and put an outdoor concert venue on a grass hill in front. The parking and infrastructure necessary for a concert venue are already in place and it would have an economic impact for the area.

  • So the final plan appears to be this: Strip the Astrodome to its skeleton, fill the area inside with water, except for enough room for some parking, then install the battleship Texas in the man-made lake, and host concerts in the resulting complex. I smell a kickstarter campaign on the horizon.