An Urban Land Institute advisory panel report has recommended Harris County turn the 50-year-old Astrodome into a massive indoor, multiuse park that could cost more than $242 million to construct.
The report, which was prepared by land-use experts during a five-day panel held Dec. 15-19, details a variety of improvements that could be made to the Astrodome. Suggestions include the creation of a new ground-floor park and event space inside the dome and 1,500 new parking spaces on the first two floors as well as the creation of additional event space and exhibition space within the structure.
Vacant since 2008 the Astrodome’s redesign could reuse the floors for a variety of programmable space, including expanding the game-day experience for the Houston Texans and providing new space for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the report states.
“It’s gratifying to me to see that even a large group of experts from all across the nation recognized the Astrodome as the unique and beloved asset that it is,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.
Commissioners Court unanimously approved a motion March 31 to receive the report and return it to the corporation, which will come back to the court with an implementation plan. That plan will include possible funding avenues for the project.
Harris County Communications Director Joe Stinebaker said the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation would review the recommendations and come back to the Commissioners Court with a plan.
“It’s gratifying to me to see that even a large group of experts from all across the nation recognized the Astrodome as the unique and beloved asset that it is.”
- Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
“That timetable has not been established,” HCSCC Executive Director Kevin Hoffman said. “We’d like to get it reviewed and back to the county as soon as possible. It’s a very tedious process, and we want to be thorough.”
In addition to a review of the plan itself, the HCSCC will consider financing options for the Astrodome plan, which could include historical tax credits, a tax increment reinvestment zone, philanthropy and private investments, Stinebaker said. The cost for this plan is still unknown but the ULI report suggests it could cost more than $242.4 million.
“If there were a significant investment from the county, it would almost certainly be put to a bond issue,” Stinebaker said.
Hoffman could not comment on any potential funding partners for the project, but said the HCSCC is being thorough with its planning.
“We’re scrubbing the numbers,” he said. “We’re looking at the dollar amounts to make sure they’re as
accurate as possible.
The ULI report and proposal is the latest initiative to determine how to proceed with the aging and vacant Astrodome. In 2013 Harris County voters turned down a $217 million proposal to renovated the Astrodome into a facility site for festivals, community events, sporting events and conferences.