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The Astrodome: From Elvis to Evel Knievel...to Green Space?

Looks like this former icon of Houston will be mulch soon.
Looks like this former icon of Houston will be mulch soon.

Anybody surprised that Astrodome is going to be demolished and turned into green space hasn't really been paying attention the past 25-plus years.

The Dome has been a doomed property ever since Harris County gave into Bud Adams's demands to destroy the heart and soul for the building so that he could put in new seats. Its fate was further sealed when Drayton McLane was allowed to let the place rot so he could use its condition to get Minute Maid Park built. The end came when it was decided to build the ugly monstrosity known as NRG Stadium to house the Houston Texans.

County judge Ed Emmett told Mark Berman last night that the Rodeo/Texans plan was a non-story.

Think about this for a bit. Never has a legitimate plan been presented to renovate the facility. County officials have "considered" plans that would turn the place into a movie studio and into an amusement park. There were plans for it to be a hotel, a casino, an observatory, a convention complex. Only one plan has ever been presented to the voters. And that plan was a stupidly awful money pit that would gut the Dome and turn it into a welcoming center for people going to football games and the rodeo -- this plan was rightfully voted down.

I'm sure there'll be plenty of people bitching about the philistines who didn't understand the history of the Astrodome and condemned it to death. But if you're one of those people, you're blaming the wrong ones. The fault first, and foremost, belongs to the Houston Texans and Rodeo Houston. The Texans and the Rodeo had veto power over any planned use of the facility. And they exercised that veto with impunity, vetoing nearly every plan because the proposed use of the building would interfere with the Rodeo and the Texans.

None of this would have mattered if county officials had taken a stand. But the only stand they were willing to take was the stand that would keep the Texans and the Rodeo happy. So they let the place rot. They let it become uninhabitable, unusable. They let it get to the point where it was too expensive to fix the problems and it became cheaper to destroy the Dome. Then they chose a stupid plan to put before the voters, suspecting it would be rejected, but now able to deflect the blame from themselves to the voters.

I don't want the Astrodome to die. No person who is a native of this city should desire this. But it's far better for it to die, to be destroyed and turned into green space than it is for it to continue as it is now, a rotting hulk suited for nothing. It will always be a better sports stadium than Minute Maid Park and NRG Stadium. But it's time to face the truth -- with the building of Minute Maid Park and NRG Stadium and BBVA Compass Stadium and Toyota Center, there's absolutely no use for the Dome.

Everything that's been proposed for the use of the Dome is already being done by another facility. Convention facility: Well, that's why the George R. Brown Convention Center was built. Soccer games: That's the reason for BBVA Compass. Football games: Well, there's NRG Stadium and BBVA Compass and Rice Stadium and TDECU Stadium (the new UH stadium). Baseball? Minute Maid. Graduations? Just about any semi-decent-size building in the city can cover that.

 

The Astrodome is a historic building. The first of its kind. It helped shape the games of football, baseball and basketball. Historic events occurred inside, like the UH/UCLA basketball game that helped show the NCAA what was truly possible with college basketball. It's hard to imagine an NCAA men's basketball title game now being held in anything but a domed stadium. Nolan Ryan threw a no-hitter inside the place. Elvis and the Jackson 5 performed concerts inside the Dome. It hosted political conventions, religious events and Evel Knievel.

But the Rodeo and the Texans had no further use for the place. Bud Adams promised a Super Bowl if the scoreboard was torn out -- there was no Super Bowl and the Oilers ended up leaving. Drayton McLane wanted his own pleasure palace. City and county leaders did nothing but trash and belittle the place so that other ballparks and stadiums could be built to replace it.

Don't blame the voters for not approving the use of taxpayer funds for a stupid plan that would've gutted the place. Blame those officials who put that idiotic plan up for a vote without pushing for realistic options. Blame the Rodeo and the Texans for vetoing anything that might make them share their valuable parking spaces. Blame Bud Adams, blame Drayton McLane.

The Dome has been doomed to death for a long time now. Maybe now it can be actually put out of its agony.


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