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Fate of Astrodome to be decided by voters

Construction of the Astrodome

The fate of the Houston Astrodome — once hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World — will be decided by voters this fall in a $217-million bond referendum.

The measure, passed by the Harris County Board of Commissioners today, would convert the 1965 landmark into a convention center and exhibition space. The Astrodome has been unused for the last four years; prior to that it was used for smaller events after the departure of the Houston Astros to Minute Maid Park. Since the loss of the Astros Harris County officials labored to identify a use for the domed stadium: proposals like hotel and amusement park have come up short. It’s also a less ambitious renovation than originally proposed by CSL and Populous, which carried a price tag of $270 million.

The plan would raise the floor of the Astrodome and make it a more intimate venue, seating 5,500 for hockey (currently the Houston market lacks pro hockey with the departure of the AHL’s Houston Aeros) and 15,500 for football and concerts. That makes it more attractive for big high-school football games and hockey, as the new floor of the facility will be a spacious 300,000 square feet. It also makes it more attractive as a venue for one of the complex’s main tenants: the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo formerly held events at the Astrodome before the venue closed in 2009, and the new configuration would make it attractive for holding events related to the Rodeo, such as concerts.

The shell of the Astrodome will remain, but much of the interior will be stripped out — the seating will be removed, the mechanicals will be replaced, and the suites will be overhauled. (One thing we’d love to see: a restoration of one of the suites to its original configuration and design.)

We discussed the proposal on NPR’s Marketplace.

RELATED STORIES: Fate of Astrodome again under debate in HoustonFuture of Astrodome: Three scenariosAstros turn back the clock this season to mark Astrodome openingIs Houston angling to close Astrodome?


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