People often call the Astrodome in Houston the Eighth Wonder of the World – and when it opened in 1965, that was a fitting description. It was the first stadium of its kind, with astroturf and air conditioning and other cutting-edge technology.
In its current condition, though, the stadium is more waste than wonder, which created a divide in Houston between those who wanted to save the Astrodome, and those who wanted to tear it down. The debate raged for years, but now it’s been settled.
The Harris County Commissioners Court voted to spend over $100 million to modernize the Astrodome. Brian Smith, a sports columnist for the Houston Chronicle, says that, at times, the Astrodome did come close to being demolished.
“This situation wasn’t in the hands of the every-day working person, in the hands of voters,” he says. “This was a decision by the county commissioners. But once the Astrodome was designated on the antiquities list, once it was preserved, they had that locked in.”
Smith says it was estimated that the demolition would cost around $30 million.
“So if it’s going to cost you 105 to renovate it,” he says, “part of that 30 comes from property taxes, the rest from hotel parking – their pitch is it’s not really going to cost your average taxpayer anything different that it wouldn’t have cost them because of the tear down.”
He says the restoration plan creates 1,400 parking spaces, and those parking fees will pay for part of the cost. Plus, the renovated Astrodome – located right next to NRG Stadium – could make the city more competitive to host major events. Still, Smith says the fight over the Astrodome is not over yet.
“They’re not tearing it down,” he says, “but the plan has to be done right.”
Smith says that Houston has had a historic preservation problem for a long time, which is why Houstonians feel so strongly about the Astrodome.
Written by Jen Rice.