The Houston Astrodome was nicknamed the 8th wonder of the world when it opened in 1965.
It served as home to professional baseball and football, as well as the site of history making events in sports. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo presented Elvis Presley, who was just one of many memorable concerts over the years.
The Dome even hosted a national political convention. But history is practically the only thing that keeps the aging 46-year old structure standing. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett admits they’re at the end of a giant crossroad:
“Now some people are saying, ‘Well, maybe we ought to just tear it down,’ but then when you remind them it was the first domed stadium, it has a historic significance beyond Houston and Harris County, they go yeah, that’s right.”
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, which operates the county-owned Reliant Park complex, is responsible for the upkeep of the vacant structure that Emmett calls an eyesore, at a cost of about $4 million a year. He says this is the year that Commissioners will decide on its future.
“Commissioner Lee has been very interested. It’s in his precinct and he’s come forward with some plans, and he and I have been in conversation fairly regularly in the matter. Of course, the folks at the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation — while they don’t necessarily get to make the decision — they have a lot of input into it. And so, they keep coming up with all these plans of what the Reliant Park master plan should look like, and we’ve got to decide what role the Astrodome plays in that.”
Ideas still on the table include an indoor hotel complex, a giant movie sound stage, a science technology and engineering institute, and Judge Emmett’s favorite, a venue for public gatherings, meetings, festivals and celebrations, rain or shine.
“I don’t think we have to make a decision that says the entire Dome has to be one thing. It can be used for multiple purposes, but we’ve got to start driving that decision to figure out what those purposes are.”
While millions will be needed to make any plan a reality, Emmett says Commissioners Court will ultimately decide on what will happen to the Dome.
“That’s why I say a decision needs to be made. The action doesn’t have to be taken, but a decision needs to be made, so we can start laying the groundwork.”