Correction: An earlier version of this story repeated an assertion included in a Houston Business Journal blog post by Shaina Zucker — that the Sports Corporation’s proposal for the Astrodome included a plan to lower the building’s roof. That reporting is in error; we’ve now corrected the information in the story below. Although the Sports Corporation is not proposing to lower the roof, it is proposing to raise the structure’s floor to ground level, which would result in a smaller interior for the Dome. Swamplot regrets the error.
The clearest sign so far that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation wasn’t really into the half-hearted call for bids to redevelop the Astrodome it sorta-but-not-really issued a couple months ago? At yesterday’s press conference where it — surprise! — announced its own plan to reinvent Houston’s most recognizable landmark, officials didn’t even bother to describe any of the 19 submissions it had received. None of them, declared executive director Willie Loston, actually came with private money attached. (At least not in the inside pockets of their presentation binders.)
The Corporation’s own new idea of turning the dilapidated former sports stadium into additional convention space doesn’t have any private funds attached to it either, but the estimated $194 million plan does already appear to have gained the enthusiastic support of County Judge Emmett — which isn’t so surprising, since he proposed a similar idea a mere 4 years ago. Rodeo chief Leroy Shafer tells the Chronicle’s Kiah Collier that he considers the latest plan to be a scaled-back version of a proposal the Corporation — with the Rodeo’s backing — promoted last year, after a half-million-dollar study led by some Dallas consultants.
Turning the Dome into a space for swim meets, graduations, and overflow events of the Offshore Technology Conference may not be the bold transformation many Houstonians had imagined for the city’s monument to innovation and reinvention, but the plan’s true proponents are hoping the ominous “this is your last chance or we’ll demolish it” framing — along with the lower price tag — will be enough to garner support from the Commissioners Court and the voters who’ll likely have to approve any bond issue.
In keeping with the building’s newly imagined lower profile, the redeveloped Astrodome would, in fact, shrink.
The domed roof would be lowered, The stair towers added to the exterior of the structure in the eighties would be removed, and the floor would be filled in and raised to street level, effectively lowering the ceiling height by about 33 ft. Large windows on the north, south, east, and west sides would be put in, and 60,000 seats would be taken out. They’d end up with 355,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a ring of retail-y spaces facing outward along the building’s base, and a little green plaza out front. By the time the 2017 Super Bowl rolls around, if all goes according to plan, Reliant Stadium would sport a new front entrance — and the Astrodome will have been repurposed into the world’s largest . . . event foyer.
Having neatly disposed of all possible alternatives (save, of course, demolition), the Corporation is now passing its this-or-nothing proposal onto the county commissioners. They’ll vote on the plan next week. If the whole thing is an ingenious ploy to cue the Dome up for demolition — which the Texans and the Rodeo have a study saying they could do for a cool $29 million — we might get a sense of that fairly soon.
- Astrodome may finally have a purpose: Officials unveil proposal [Houston Business Journal]
- Sports Corp. recommends conventional idea for Dome [Houston Chronicle ($)]
- Sports Corp. promises ‘new Dome experience’ [Houston Chronicle]
- Proposal supports restoration, reuse of historic Astrodome [MyFoxHouston]
- Astrodome coverage [Swamplot]