How Harris County Has Been Letting the Astrodome Rot

Teevee reporter Courtney Zubowski follows up on questions raised by some recent photos published on Swamplot: Just how badly trashed is the Astrodome? The county claims to be spending $2 to $3 million a year to maintain the vacant structure, but apparently that amount isn’t enough to keep the place presentable. A burst 8th-floor pipe has drenched the Astroturf, seats are caked with dust, pipe insulation is frayed, and hung ceilings have collapsed on office space:


It’s not all so awful: The suites seem to be in good shape, and except for some rust in the showers, the old Oilers’ locker room isn’t in such bad shape. But the Astros’ locker room hasn’t been cleaned up since it was broken into and vandalized.

County Judge Ed Emmett tells Zubowski he can’t foresee any action on a plan for the Dome — even demolition — without a bond election. He’s waiting to hear the conclusions of a half-million-dollar study.

Photos: KHOU

25 Comment

  • I just don’t understand. When are the people of Houston and the County Commisioners court going to figure out that there is nothing viable that can be done with the dome? Any option for re-use would cost an astonishing amount of money and would be unlikely to yield a profitable result and then what happens? We’ll have millions more dollars in bonds and we will again be faced with years of 50 thousand dollar “what to do with the empty, aging, Astrodome” studies, which will in turn produce no results and the cycle repeats. Enough, tear the thing down!

  • They should have a “Come Take Home A Piece of the Astrodome” day. Everyone can come and slowly help to dismantle it over time. By the time the City decides to actually do something about it, it will be demo ready.

  • Kinda makes you wonder if this is how well the county maintains all its public property.

  • I have been on the “save the Astrodome” campaign since the beginning, but I have now given up. It’s time to say goodbye. It’s like putting Old Yeller down – it needs to be done.

  • I think it would be really cool to sell off all of those seats. I would buy a bunch of them. I think it would be really cool to take the wole thing down to the metal and concrete frame and let nature reclaim it. It could be a park or botanical garden or something like that.

  • What an embarrassment! What does this say to outsiders about the people and politics of the city of Houston?! Shameful!

  • On Tuesday, March 27 I spoke before Harris County Commissioners Court in support of my proposal to turn the Astrodome into an immersive orbital experience and space tourism marketplace complete with spacecraft simulators from the private space launch companies, set in a new 90-acre green park built over new subsurface garages that will triple Reliant parking. I will be presenting details of this master plan at a happy hour meeting of the My Houston 2040 group, 5 PM April 12, 2012 at Rudyard’s British Pub, 2010 Waugh. We will have a powerpoint and a 1 to 1000 scale model of the proposed park. You and your interested readers are invited to attend.

  • it’s vacant, filthy and ugly, no matter what it once was. It needs to go, pronto! so millions are not spent every year maintaining its nothingness!

  • Why did I suddenly have the feeling of someone putting a hand on my wallet while reading Chris Alexander’s post?

  • Isn’t it really about asbestos abatement?

  • I like Dans idea. Tear it down to the frame and let mother nature take it back. It could give discovery green a run for its money.

  • I will gladly take a row a seats off their hands. Just one less thing to demolish.

  • Just demo or dismantle the place. Turn the grounds into a park area which sculptures made by artists out of the structural steel. The circle the dome occupied could easily preserved and the memory be set by the sculptures. Hell, even put a really small covered area with pictures and writings remembering the structure. You could make a large plaza in the middle with a covered stage area (very simple) for outdoor events. I rather have the land as a memory to the dome versus having the dome creating bad memories by just sitting there.

  • It’s funny, I was just reading today about an old radio tower in Moscow that is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it was an engineering feat for when it was built, and I thought wow, how highly among 20th century landmarks must the Astrodome rank? Yes, it’s hard to find a profitable idea for it now, but if we tear it down, we could spend hundreds of years saying “Oh, why didn’t we just think to do this?”

    Most buildings that we think of now as grand and historic went through a long time when people thought they were worthless. They came close to tearing down Notre Dame cathedral and Grand Central Station… and they actually did tear down Penn Station and the Abbey of Cluny. And looking back you say, “How was it possible?” But almost all great buildings go through phases where it’s not obvious why it should remain standing. Better to hold off on the trigger finger.

  • Implosion and the sooner the better.

  • Stop spending a dime. Escrow the money for future demo costs, if ever needed. Just let it rot. It’s a great study in urban decay. It’s not bothering anyone. Someday you can sell tickets for people to come and stare at it a la the Roman Coliseum.

  • This isn’t Wrigley or Fenway, so let’s be realistic: the Astrodome had a wonderful and glorious life but now it’s time to put it down in a dignified way rather than continuing to rot and wallow in shame. Any serious attempt to extend it’s life probably passed a decade(and tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars) or more ago.

  • I side with the park idea. Strip the thing back to the metal frame, and have a wonderful greenspace for Reliant, tailgating, and gathering area. An oasis of green in acres of parking lots.

  • And this marks how many studies to date between HC and the Sports Authority???

    call cherry demolition and get rid of the old eye sore.

    The rodeo will never ‘allow’ anyting viable in that space that might in any way infringe on their cash cow.

    Be done already!!!!!!!!!

  • Of course it isn’t Fenway or Wrigley. If it were, then I’d be in favor of tearing it down because there’d be better examples already existing. But, like you said, it isn’t. It was an engineering marvel of its time. It deserves to be kept around. There are so many GRAND possibilities out there but our county is run by morons rather than visionaries. You cannot tell me that this “let it decay” mentality isn’t being done on purpose. Nobody wants to be the guy that pulls the trigger on The Astrodome but nobody will have to be if they can get the public either exhausted, disinterested, or pissed off about the growing costs.

  • The thing can’t be re-purposed in any realistic fashion (I’ve been a consultant on that stuff, don’t jive me), and every day it stands the demolition contract gets more difficult. Simple HVAC maint ran over $2 million per year wher the place was operating, and the power bills were much more.
    Take it behind the barn and shoot it, and put it out of its (and our) misery,

  • “This isn’t Wrigley or Fenway”…..typical Houston mentality. The very reason Wrigley and Fenway exist is because of a fundamental difference in how Boston and Chicago see and treat their public venues.Houston’s answer to everything is to knock it down, pave it over, build a pile of excrement, then start the cycle all over again…..While you there, why not plan on destroying the Reliant stadium? You’ll be having this same discussion in another 15-20 years anyway.

  • Partner with A & M, Rice, Oil Companies, Houston Zoo, etc. and turn it into a huge butterfly type exhibit, (think Cockrell on steroids) with endangered species of insects, plants, fish, etc. in it’s own ecosystem. A great place for ziplines to observe. A lot of possibilities with this.

  • Dome Henge. Include a solar meridian like the one designed by the great astronomer Cassini in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. At the equinoxes, solstices and other key moments of the astronomical year the sun shines through a hole in the building exactly on the appropriate mark on the inlaid meridian. NASA is right down the road and Houston is rich in structural and environmental artists, so put them together to make something wonderful.

  • what i think is to fork out money and try to re open it and if not let it rot its the 8th wonder of the world its a legend they cant tear it down