When it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome was considered the 8th wonder of the world. It served as the home to the baseball team until it moved to Minute Maid Park 10 years ago. A 60-million dollar expansion and renovation were not enough to keep the Oilers football team from moving to Tennessee in 1989. Since then, the dome's use dwindled over the years.
LeRoy Shafer is chief operating officer with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He says for a while it thrived as a giant nightclub venue during the rodeo until health code violations changed things.
"We did that with the 2004 show, and some nights we had at one time, as much as 6-thousand people dancing and enjoying the hideout. We also were using it during the daytime. We had our calf scramble banquets there, but we were notified about four months before our show last year by county officials, that they could not make the repairs to meet the requirements to get around those violations. So, it's been closed since that time."
Shafer says the rodeo would be willing to help Harris County in whatever it decides what to do with the dome. County Judge Ed Emmett says contrary to popular belief, there are definitive plans in the works. It's just a question of
when plans for a public venue concept will be presented to the county.
"I want it to be something that, no matter what else is in it, I mean, there's been talk about the science technology and engineering institute but, I see so many festivals and celebrations in this community. Most of them are held outdoors, no offense to the city, but the venue in front of city hall is not the greatest. If you could put those inside the Astrodome, you don't have weather concerns, and I think it would be a great venue."
It is costing Harris County upwards of 4-million dollars a year to maintain the dome as it sits unoccupied. As the 2010 rodeo season comes to a close, I asked people at Reliant Park what should be done with the Astrodome.
comment: "Don't know, I wouldn't have a clue...a mall, put a mall in it! (laughter) ...it's a tough decision."
comment: "They ought to build you know, use it for something instead of tearing it down."
comment: "We think it should be turned into a soccer stadium with the roof painted like a soccer ball."
PH: "How about you?"
comment: "That sounds good."
comment: "Eighth wonder of the world,Î¾ astroturf, it was the first in a lot of ways. It was a great place."
PH: "What do you think ought to be done?"
comment: "Oh god, I'm kind of torn. You know, it's kind of a Houston landmark, but at the same time I know it hadn't been maintained and part of me says it's so expensive to maintain it, why don't we just tear it down and move on? It's a tough decision."
Other uses being considered include a giant movie studio and a hotel. But both ideas have encountered financing and viability issues.