So what does this mean for our Dome?
A parking garage would be an ignoble end for the Dome, though I am sure many would settle for parking somewhere in the former lodge section if it meant they wouldn’t need to watch pieces of it be hauled down 610 on the backs of flatbed trucks.
Tacking on millions upon millions of dollars onto what will already be an expensive enterprise such as a Super Bowl just isn’t feasible, or even sane, in order to keep the Dome alive and kicking. Can you imagine the thing still sitting there as it is in 2017 during that big game? People will start thinking it an art installation.
Wait, that could work….
Right now would be the time for everyone with those great open-air ideas for the Dome to step forward and begin shouting about your grand schemes. I am rooting for Ryan Slattery myself. Keep reminding the Harris County Sports and Convention people that your plan is worthy.
Slattery’s vision of skeletonizing the Dome for a pavilion concept is exciting, and you make use of the structure without completely demolishing history.
But then there are the rubs.
RodeoHouston needs more space, and they have said as much in the press. The Dome sits like a tumor inside the rodeo festivities, making people have to walk around the building to get to more places to spend money. And people in Houston do not like walking a few extra yards to spend that money.
The Houston Texans wouldn’t balk at having more space. As it is on game days, their fan parties have to line up next to the Dome, and the Dome somehow angers you more just looking at it after a tough loss.
Even as an unrepentant Domer, a person who collects anything I can get my hands on related to the building, I still see the thing being torn down piece by piece in the next few years though, if Slattery’s plan or that of others is not enacted.
Look, I know I didn’t grow up here and thus don’t have the emotional attachment to the Dome that folks like The Texican have. I get that people love the old behemoth, which was the first of its kind, and want to preserve it, which is a strange sentiment in a town like Houston. It’s just that there’s no precedent for doing anything other than applying the wrecking ball. I mean, they tore down Yankee Stadium, which with all due respect has a bit more of a claim to significance than the Dome. Most of the Astros’ former colleague in the National League are playing in stadia that were built after the stadia that were built to replace their historic parks were torn down. Nobody even remembers Crosley Field, Forbes Field, or the Baker Bowl, and surely no one mourns Riverfront, Three Rivers, or Veterans stadia. The only historic venues that have been preserved are the ones that are still actively used – Fenway, Wrigley, Lambeau, Madison Square Garden. If there is a feasible and practical thing to do with the Dome then great, let’s do it. If not, then let nature take its course. I don’t see any other way.
Be that as it may, the people who helped land the Super Bowl bid say that the Dome was not and is not a factor in their thoughts or deeds.
“We had a process in place before the bid, and even after the bid, the same process applies,” said Kevin Hoffman, deputy executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation.
Nor is there an agreement – written or secret – that Houston’s selection hinged on converting the former baseball-football stadium into a parking lot, those planning Super Bowl LI and those working to save the iconic structure agreed.
“Not at all,” said Greg Ortale, bid committee member and president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We addressed the Astrodome with the NFL early on. We told them it would not be part of our bid and there was a process in place to be determined with voters voting.”
Proposing to make Super Bowl LI the longest, largest football party to date only increases pressure on local leaders to ensure the celebration is not dampened by traffic congestion and cars jousting for that last open spot.
Chris Alexander, of Astrodome Tomorrow, said that does not necessarily strengthen the arguments of those seeking to tear down the Astrodome.
Alexander, whose group wants to renovate the Dome into a high-tech entertainment and exhibition space, said their proposal includes expanding parking by building a garage on the Kirby lot.
He believes the plan for the county to review all proposals after the June 10 submission deadline, have the commissioners court choose the best option and then possibly have voters approve it clearly takes the decision out of the NFL’s control.
County Judge Ed Emmett agreed.
“It’s a totally separate question,” he said.
One we still have to come to terms with ourselves. KUHF gets some further clarity from Judge Emmett.
This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
“If there’s no private interest that has a reasonable financial backing, then on June 25th, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation is to present their best idea of public use of the Dome to Harris County Commissioners Court and our capital improvements planning session. From that point, it will be in the hands of County Commissioners Court.”
Emmett says the Astrodome saga will likely end at the ballot box, with local voters ultimately deciding what to do with an aging Houston icon.
“It’s very likely to require a bond election. That would be presented to the voters, but I’m told we’re not allowed to put options, so it will be a real clear, this is the best idea of what to do with the Dome. If you’re not agreeable to this, then the Dome comes down. And all of that will be occurring in the next year or two years.”
First, Commissioners Court has to decide what that one clear non-demolition option is. I look forward to seeing the choices they will have for review. Campos has more.