Long-forgotten Astrodome holds potential to serve Houstonians
The Astrodome was once hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, but now stands as a reminder of what used to be and what could be, if the proposal submitted by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Houston Texans fails to go through.
According to the Astrodome Site Study done by the Rodeo and Texans, the two propose to demolish the dome-shaped structure but keep the skeleton of the dome itself (similar Stonehenge’s appearance) and create a major green space in the middle of NRG Park. They claim it will benefit events held at NRG Park due to its functionality and utility.
However, it seems Houstonians are still attached to the building and are not yet able to let it go.
Judge Ed Emmett, the highest elected official in Harris County, is a proponent of preserving the Astrodome and seems to reflect what the majority of the Houston population feels about demolishing the Astrodome.
When the referendum was on the ballot last November, the final tally came to 46.57 percent in favor of the reuse proposal and 53.43 percent against it.
For those unaware of why there is so much opposition, the Astrodome is the world’s first multi-purpose domed sports stadium and a source of pride for the city of Houston; however, its glory days have long passed.
Houston is being recognized for better and greater things. This unwillingness to repurpose the dome for something that can benefit the community and preserve its historic significance is only hindering Houston’s progress.
Management senior Angela Lawrence said the Astrodome should be transformed into a park.
“It’s a waste of resources. (The park) is a good idea. It’s environmentally friendly and everything, and they can make a pretty good big-sized park there,” Lawrence said. “They could do a lot of things. They could do a little shaded area where you can stand if it rains, a little kids section … they could do a lot.”
In the study, Discovery Green is a cited as a case study of what the new green space could do for NRG Park.
Since its inception in 2008, Discovery Green has become a regional attraction that has transformed downtown Houston. Because of its success, the study believes that open spaces are necessary to bring in development of surrounding properties.
More properties means a higher chance of economic prosperity for the area, which could go into further transformation of the surrounding community.
Currently, it costs $2 to $3 million per year to maintain the Astrodome, and these millions come directly from taxpayers.
“They’re spending a lot of money on maintenance as of right now, and if (the Astrodome) can be used for a better purpose, it should be. A lot of families do stay nearby and a park could be fun for the kids,” said computer science master’s student Anubhav Mehra. “If it can be put for a better use, why not? Otherwise, it’ll lose a lot of money just maintaining the stadium, and if it’s not doing anything, it’s lost its purpose and has no use.”
The proposal from the Rodeo and Texans estimates demolition and repurposing will cost $66 million. Top officials from both groups said they would consider paying for some of the cost, but did not disclose how much. However, Emmett said he would oppose the plan, even if the Texans and the Rodeo agreed to foot the entire bill.
Perhaps the problem then lies in the historic significance that would disappear with the Astrodome’s demolition. Although, the Rodeo and Texans proposal has accounted for this.
Titled the “Astrodome Hall of Fame,” this part of the proposal pays tribute to the Astrodome’s history, calling for plaques to be embedded in the columns of the skeleton of the dome to commemorate the significant events, athletes and entertainers who became part of Astrodome and Houston history.
Essentially, it’s a walking timeline tour built right into the bones of the Dome itself.
“If they want to keep the legacy, it would be a great idea. It should be preserved,” said computer science master’s student Aanchal Agarwal.
Ultimately, the power to decide what gets done with the Astrodome lies in the hands of the Harris County Commissioners Court. With the Superbowl in just three years, action needs to be taken soon lest the Astrodome remain a useless, unattractive building that could hurt Superbowl traffic.
It does not do to dwell on the past and deprive the future of better things to come.
We are not losing a piece of history forever — we are taking it and remaking it so that it can serve future generations on a greater scale.
Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected].