Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The real problem with the Astrodome.....

...is that no-one wants to go down in history as the person who oversaw it's demolition.

We've seen plans for the Dome's revival go from nifty little amusement park to big casino to (of course) resort hotel to elaborate film studio to "well crap, we don't know what to do with it now."  Watching our County leaders dither over the future prospects of the Astrodome has been like watching a Greek tragedy unfold before our eyes.  Fortunately it's not the type where the son marries the mother unknowingly but we still have the final outcome of tragedy to all.

The simple fact is the Dome is a relic, built during an age that saw the rise of the multi-purpose stadium, an age that's passed by in favor of a return to a more classical aesthetic and sports-specific (with team-owners getting a hefty share of revenues most importantly) shrines built to increase "fan experience" which can be loosely translated as providing a place where corporations will plunk down a lot of money for luxury boxes.

Much of the blame is placed on K.S. "Bud" Adams for the Dome's current, sad, state.  And while it's true he forced Harris County to spend a ton of additional money getting rid of what was another of its 'ahead of its time' features (the big scoreboard) his eventual departure to Tennessee doesn't have anything to do with the current state of affairs.

Nope, the biggest hurdles to anything getting done are contracts and legacies.

The contract is the one which the Harris County Sports Authority signed with Texans owner Bob McNair.  It provides him the right of first refusal to any plans that someone might have for the building.  It basically ensures that nothing the Dome does can be economically viable because it cannot interfere with Mssr. McNair's revenue stream.  So while it is cute, in the linked article above, (behind the Chr$n's pay wall) that McNair talks about the need to beautify Reliant Park, his control over the matter makes it hard to do much of anything.  The legacies at risk are those of the County elected officials, none of whom wants their legacy to include the tearing down of the house that Hofheinz built.

What all of this has lead up to is an impasse.  I have a feeling that McNair, in his heart of hearts, wants the hulking, dilapidated relic to be gone entirely, but he won't say that because he doesn't want to be viewed as the bad guy either.  Therefore he's quite content to keep vetoing everything until there's no other choice.  This places the two sides at logger-heads, which means that it could be "years and years" (County Commissioner Steve Radack's words) before anything is decided.

Then there's the problem of the public and what is perceived as the history and soul of Houston.  If any building had no soul, and no ghosts to speak of, it'd be the sterilized, feature free Astrodome.  Sure, my first memory of a Major League Baseball game was there as well, as was the first time I saw the Rodeo, and George Strait in concert.  These are real memories that I have of the place.  However, and if you honestly assessed it I think you'd agree, the absence of the Dome from the landscape wouldn't affect those any at all. Nor would it cheapen the Astrodome's memory any more than it's already cheapened by being allowed to slowly fall apart before our eyes.

In short: Tear. It. Down.

Given the way things are going we can turn Johnson Space Center into a movie studio.


  1. I tend to agree that the tear down solution is the most practical solution. However, McNair is a generous philanthropist in addition to being an NFL team owner. So, if the Texas Medical Center, Rice, UH and Harris County banded together to turn the Dome into an indoor event center that could host large medical, educational and community conferences (the TMC is hosting such a large conference later this year at the George R. Brown), then I think McNair and the Rodeo would be persuaded to support that solution. But absent that type of use, I agree that there does not appear to be any sensible commercial solution for the Dome.

    1. I think, if they figured out a way to turn part of the structure into a parking garage, that would help as well.

      I don't blame McNair for looking after his business interests. After all, he does have a lot personally invested.


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