The Houston Astrodome, which ushered in an era of indoor baseball after it opened in 1965, could end up being a park or a hotel, depending on the route taken by Harris County officials.
The Houston Astrodome could be torn down, gutted or renovated under three scenarios presented by Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation officials as they plot the future of the Reliant Park complex.
The Astrodome opened in 1965 as the first indoor ballpark in the majors. Problems with growing grass in the facility led to the invention of Astroturf; the team's style of play also changed to take advantage of the unique venue. It was, arguably, the first ballpark as overgrown theme park.
None of the options are cheap. It will take $100 million to take down the Astrodome down to the ground; in this scenario it would be used as parkland next to Reliant Stadium, not used as a parking area. In the second scenario, the Astrodome's seating and concourses are removed as the place is gutted; the floor would then be raised 32 feet to street level and the result would be a 300,000-square-foot-plus venue space. With portable seating, the Astrodome could still hold rodeos and other big events.
The third option involves a total renovation of the place and a conversion to a conference center, complete with event spaces and meeting rooms. Most of the actions associated with the second proposal would be performed; the difference is the renovation afterward. This is the most expensive option, estimated to be $500 million or so.
One reason why a renovated Astrodome could be viable: the plan is to tear down Reliant Arena as part of the master-plan changes. That would put events currently held in the arena into the Astrodome.
The issue for the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation has always been finding a functional use for the facility. While events are still held there, it's not enough to cover operating losses. But every time there's a call to tear down the Astrodome, Houston residents raise their voices in opposition.
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