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.

sports@thedailycougar.com

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  • http://rhodes-holdings.com Robert C. Rhodes

    Even though there are so many great memories that my whole family has of the Dome – dome dogs, UH games, Oiler games, Astros games, rodeos… It is time to say goodbye and get it gone.

  • quikboy

    This article has terrible arguments. Nobody is going to throw out $300-500 million just to renovate and do nothing with it. If someone were, they'd very likely expect some monetary returns through ticket sales, admission fees, or whatever that will pay to keep it in operation. The idea is, can we save the Dome and make it produce money to ensure it's existence? The answer is probably yes. There are obstacles like bureaucrats and the HSLR folks who may not want something in the way during Rodeo season.

    Comparing Yankee stadium to the 8th wonder of the world is not really analogous. So if some city made a decision (good or bad), another city should follow?

    There isn't much question about what to do with it. The Chronicle has had many stories on proposals including large sound stages and production studios to lure Hollywood, a luxury hotel with a mini Riverwalk, a theme park, and several other decent proposals. If they don't act now, it'll just cost more.

    How about actually solving problems instead of just merely destroying it? I'd like to see what our architecture students could come up with. Once you get rid of it, there's no going back.

  • Blake

    "The county still owes $29.9 million for the original construction of the building"

    The article continues the trend of the media reporting "fuzzy numbers" to worsen the Dome's fate. Depending on the source, the original construction was about $30- 35 million back in the 60's. I am not sure on when the note was to expire originally, but expansion and renovatation is probably responsible for the amount owed. For example, the renovations that added 10,000 seats and more weren't paid by the Astros or the Oilers.

    Don't make the county look finacially irresponsible by showing that it's still owes 85% on their beloved 60's sports car.

  • John

    My dad is a professional demolition bidder, if you had to put a title on it, and he's bid on the demolition of the Astrodome a few times<<–it would cost less than 5 million dollars.

    Put simply, the inflated "78 million" cost is including the old debt on the last remodel that is still owed, which would have to be payed somehow since the collateral of the actual dome asset would be gone.

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