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Salvaging the Dome

Here’s one way to keep demolition costs down.

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Picture a urinal in the basement of the Reliant Astrodome — a block of dusty porcelain, used by Earl Campbell or Nolan Ryan, or any other Oilers or Astros great. How much would that be worth?

A St. Louis urologist forked over $2,174 to put a urinal from the old Busch Stadium in his waiting room. A $500 urinal from Tiger Stadium reportedly is icing down drinks in a garage somewhere in Detroit. And one of the fixtures from Miami’s Orange Bowl found new life as a tap: Pull the flush handle and beer flows. Remember, “fan” is short for fanatic.

Next month, Harris County officials plan to release a study comparing the cost of demolishing the Astrodome with renovating it in several forms. The last estimate two years ago — which county officials call a conservative guess — put the cost of razing it at $78 million, not counting the $29.9 million still owed on the building.

Demolition experts have said that number sounds high. A Houston Chronicle analysis of two dozen razed stadiums found the next-highest costs were $22 million for Yankee Stadium and $17 million for Shea Stadium, both in New York.

Demolition experts also say the price of detonating the Dome would depend greatly on the cash that could be recouped by recycling it — from selling memorabilia and fixtures to salvaging the steel and grinding concrete into gravel.

“All demolitions are affected by what the price of scrap is,” said Jim Redyke of Tulsa-based Dykon Explosive Demolition Corp. “If we’re in a market condition that scrap is extremely low, then the cost for demolition goes up. But if scrap prices are high, then the guy says, ‘Well I’m going to get X amount of dollars for scrap on that.’ ”

I just want to point out again that people spent a bunch of money on Enron crap. I feel confident saying there’s more nostalgia and sentiment for the Astros and Oilers than there were for Ken Lay’s legacy. It won’t cover the cost of tearing the place down, if that’s what we ultimately choose to do, but it’ll help.

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