Consultant Makes Recommendations for Astrodome

When it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome ushered a new standard for watching sporting events in air-conditioned comfort. But when state-of-the-art Reliant Stadium opened next door 10 years ago, the structure, once known as the "8th Wonder of the World," became a symbol of the city's past. While the Astrodome was closed for good in 2008, it still costs upwards of $4 million dollars a year in maintenance and insurance. Last year Harris County Commissioners approved a study to find a new purpose for the aging icon. A team of consultants led by Convention Sports and Leisure, presented to the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, its ideas to renovate the Astrodome and replace nearby Reliant Arena. Bill Rhoda is president of CSL.

"We had four options. One was status quo, one was the plaza, the third was the multipurpose facility and the fourth was the Renaissance. And it's the consulting team's recommendation that the multipupose facility option be selected for future use of the Astrodome site, and the cost would be $270 million dollars."

He said the multipurpose facility proposal, recognizes the magnitude of potential opportunities offered by the Dome.

"The analysis of the Renaissance, which was the creative development, where there would be third party investments, has been unable to really identify a mix of uses that could be financed in today's environment. However, if the county were to pursue the multipupose facility option, it still preserves the Astrodome Renaissance option, as that's basically a first step to that type of development that could occur in the future."

That option would include a luxury hotel, but would be considered separately from the Dome. Edgar Colon, chairman of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, says the multipurpose option would give new life to the Astrodome.

"Basically, clear the interior of the Astrodome to the walls, and create a big open space, where we can have multiple events. For example, we could have high school football, multiple meeting and exhibition spaces. You can configure the floor in a certain way that can meet the requirements of many events that can come to the facility."

After use of tax credits, consultants estimate it would cost about $523 million dollars to renovate the Astrodome and replace Reliant Arena. The recommendation will now go to Harris County Commissioners, who can review the details at their next capital projects meeting next month. Any decision would most likely result in a bond referendum to finance it.

For a look at the plans being considered, go to www.reliantpark.com.

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