A plan to rehabilitate the aging Astrodome is headed to county commissioners for consideration next week, following the reveal of a $194 million proposal approved June 19 by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation.
Dubbed as the “New Dome Experience,” the proposal does not call for demolishing the nearly 50-year-old facility, but instead reinvents the Eighth Wonder of the World as a space for community and sporting events, festivals and conferences at Reliant Park.
“What we want the Dome to become for major events at Reliant Park is the front door,” said Mark Miller, general manager for Reliant Park. “We want everybody to go to the Super Bowl through the Astrodome. We want everyone to go to the Final Four through the Astrodome. It’s where you’ll come and get greeted, and you’ll have a great fan experience on your way to the game.”
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said he believes the concept is outstanding and would provide an opportunity to properly use a county asset.
“At the end of it, I believe Houston and Harris County will become the event capital of the world,” Emmett said. “As was pointed out, there is no open space like this anywhere else in the world, and the fact that it’s going to be air-conditioned and protected from the weather means the opportunities are endless.”
The HCSCC received 19 outside proposals before a June 10 deadline, but none met all the requirements set out by the organization. Therefore, the HCSCC recommended its own public-use plan, which executive director Willie Loston said incorporates several ideas from the private proposals.
“In reading through the proposals, one theme seemed to be fairly constant from those interested in saving the building, and that was dreams and memories,” said Willie Loston, HCSCC executive director. “The Astrodome has a special significance to many members of our community, whether you were born and raised here, or whether you came as a visitor and inherited a love for the building and city.”
The proposal involves clearing the interior of the Dome to create a 350,000-square-foot event space, raising the floor to street level, adding glass at the four compass points and creating a signature entry at the southern compass point. Sustainability efforts are also planned, including solar panels on the roof and a storm water storage system.
The Astrodome would also serve as the central event command post for Reliant Center, and features would be implemented to facilitate emergency operations in the county.
“We think there’s a lot of opportunities to help [the county] support those activities when there is an emergency or disaster,” Miller said.
Outside the Astrodome, the ramp towers and ticket buildings would be removed, and an exterior streetscape and green space would be created.
“What we’re trying to create all the way around the base of the Dome is a really inviting, green plaza with food opportunities and restroom opportunities,” Miller said. “We want to get our events from being in the parking lot to a really amazing event space outside and around the perimeter of the Dome.”
The plan will be formally considered by Harris County commissioners June 25, but must first be studied further to determine exactly what money will be needed to make it a possibility.
“Over the years the Dome has established itself as an international brand,” said Kevin Hoffman, HCSCC deputy executive director. “We have a chance to honor the Dome’s legacy and do it in a functional manner that continues to preserve memories and the history of the building while inspiring its future.”