The world's first domed, air-conditioned stadium has not been used since 2009 because of safety issues. The cost to maintain it as it is is at least $2 million dollars a year, and a study found that it would cost $120 million to demolish it.
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation unanimously approved its own plan, instead of one of 19 private-sector proposals submitted earlier this month. It calls for removing the seats, raising the floor to street level and adding glass at four compass points.
Mark Miller, GM of SMG-Reliant Park, helped present the plan to the Corporation's board. He called it "a gateway" to Reliant Stadium.
Graphic from the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation Astrodome proposal
"We want everybody to go to the Super Bowl through the Astrodome. We want everybody to go to the Final Four through the Astrodome. It is where you will come and get greeted. You will have a great fan experience. You can dine. You could do whatever the event really wants you to do, on your way to the gate."
Corporation Chair Edgar Colon says the plan would take about 30 months to complete at a cost of $194 million dollars.
"We hope to reduce that amount with other sources of financing, you know tax credits, etc. So that will probably require some type of a bond issuance. We think that the revenues generated by the new Dome is going to allow us to basically break even, in terms of the operating expenses."
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett liked what he heard.
"I think the concept is outstanding. There is no open space like this anywhere else in the world, and the fact that it's going to be air-conditioned — you know, protected from the weather — the opportunities are just endless. So I think it's a perfect solution."
The Dome was added to a list of the nation's most endangered historic places. David Bush with Preservation Houston, says the action taken by the Corporation is more than just preserving history.
"It doesn't just preserve the building, it provides a viable use, and that's really what's important. It's not just a matter of saving the Dome for the sake of saving the Dome. It's going to provide a good use for the building, and it's going to be important for the community. It's going to be an important asset for Houston again."
The plan will be considered by Harris County Commissioners next week. If they agree to the proposal, it would then be put to voters before it's a done deal.