The year was 1966 when the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved from the Sam Houston Coliseum to the Astrodome. Attendance consistently broke records and later that year the Astrohall was built to showcase livestock. Thiry-seven years later, the rodeo celebrated its first year in its new homes: Reliant Stadium and Reliant Center.
Officials tried to keep the Astrodome a functioning facility, but repairs to the “Eighth Wonder of the World” have made the facility uninhabitable. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation is now entertaining proposals on giving the Dome a new lease on life. Willie Loston is executive director. He says one idea is to turn it into a convention center and hotel.
“We continue to work with the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation. That process continues to move albeit, very slowly, but right now, we have it at the point where we have prepared a draft lease for the project, and that draft lease has been circulated to the major tenants, the [Houston]Texans and the rodeo.”
Don Henderson consults for the Astrodome Redevelopment Corporation (ARC). He says a hotel project would improve Houston’s standing with other major cities with enough hotel space to attract convention business. He says ARC is ready to proceed but:
“We’ve been in a holding pattern over the past year just about, waiting for Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation and Harris County Commissioners Court, to give us the lease on that building, so we can go out and gather financing.”
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says so far the hotel project has been the only formal presentation made.
“There are at least three other ideas that are beginning to percolate, if you will, but I think that there is an increased level of activity with people. There’s been so much publicity, people are saying ‘look, we gotta do something’.”
Another idea is to turn the dome into a giant Hollywood movie set. Cynthia Neely is with Astrodome Studios.
“The industry is a huge economic value to a city or to a state because, not only do we hire people and put people to work, it’s a manufacturing industry that’s been here all along.”
The decision on the Astrodome will be made by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation and then presented to Judge Emmett and Commissioner’s Court.
“The folks who want to build a hotel have the formal process in place, and they’re the only one that is in that position right now. But if another idea comes up that’s better, then I’m sure the corporation would entertain it.”
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.