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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Commentary

Not worth saving the Dome


The Cougars began playing football at the Astrodome in 1965. The Dome was also where UH defeated UCLA in the “Game of the Century” that pitted Lew Alcindor against Cougars’ legend Elvin Hayes.  |   |  File Photo/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars began playing football at the Astrodome in 1965. The Dome was also where UH defeated UCLA in the “Game of the Century” that pitted Lew Alcindor against Cougars’ legend Elvin Hayes. | | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

If the Astrodome were to vanish tomorrow, like poof it’s gone like magic,  would you notice?

Would your daily life change in any significant or insignificant way? No, most likely not.

It would be nice if the fate of the Astrodome was a simple, “Should we keep it or blow it up?” kind of situation, but it’s not. The once one-of-a-kind arena is now a financial burden and will be whether it stays or goes, just how much of a burden is the question.

“It’s time to make a decision on the Astrodome and move forward,” County Judge Ed Emmett said to the Houston Chronicle.. “Once Commissioners Court makes a decision, just given the cost, we’re going to have to go to the voters and say, you agree or you don’t agree with this? The alternative could well be, ‘If you don’t like this best solution then it’s coming down.’”

As early as November, residents of Harris County will be able to vote on the future of the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The county still owes $29.9 million  for the original construction of the building. Paying that cost is unavoidable, but what residents can decide is how much more of their tax money will go towards the Dome’s salvation or doom. To implode the Astrodome will cost a pretty penny, but to keep it around or even revive it in some other form would be even more expensive.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a 2010 report suggested that it would cost $78 million to demolish the Astrodome. But similar structures like the Kingdome in Seattle and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis were demolished for $10 and $13 million, respectively, so that figure might be exaggerated.

Getting rid of it would be the easy answer — stop the bleeding.

But it’s not so easy to just obliterate a structure that has played an important role in the cultural history of the city and UH athletics. The Cougars began playing football at the Astrodome in the 1965 season, and the Dome was also the home of the “Game of the Century” where No.2 UH took out No. 1 UCLA and John Wooden in the first primetime nationally televised college basketball game.

A KUHF report estimates that renovating the Dome to be back in usable condition would cost “upwards of $300 to $500 million.”

The Dome has been an important symbol for our city and a landmark unlike anything else when it opened. But, is it worth hundreds of millions of dollars to revive just so more money can be sunk into it to keep it up and running? Then there is the question of what to do with it if it was saved – the Astros aren’t moving back in.

Things come and go; people come and go; stadiums come and go. If the Yankees can knock down Yankee Stadium, then I think it’s ok to cut our financial losses and say goodbye to the Dome. It’s legacy is secure. It was a revolutionary structure and a part of the city’s history and culture, but to keep it sitting like a long-dormant volcano is not worth the cost.

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