The slow decline of a once-great landmark continued this week when Houston Fire Marshal's Office inspectors wrote nine citations for insufficient water pressure in the Astrodome’s emergency sprinkler system, theHouston Chronicle
Thirty-six employees of Reliant Park’s management firm who had been using the Dome for office space temporarily relocated to Reliant Center. (They weren’t forced to leave, but it’s hard to blame them for not sticking around.)
Repairing the system could cost up to $250,000, in addition to the half a mil taxpayers shell out each year for basic maintenance and insurance on the Dome. The facility remains closed to the public except in February and March when it houses the Hideout, a dance hall for patrons of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. There’s something to be said for dancing with the one you built, but even in a county with a billion-dollar budget, that’s a pretty pricey hoe-down. Still, it’d be hard to see the iconic structure torn down after 43 years. (Craig Biggio happens to turn 43 this year, too. Coincidence? Almost certainly.)
“No one wants to see it turned over to a wrecking ball, and we’re not to that point yet. There are still some possibilities for that building,” Joe Stinebaker, spokesman for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, told Hair Balls.
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Officials are currently trying to determine the cost of abandoning the Dome until its future is determined, which could mean working with a different set of regulations and a shorter stack of repair bills. “We’d still have to provide minimal fire suppression, but it’ll be a Commissioners Court decision. My recommendation would be 'Let’s not spend a lot of money until we know what’s going to happen,'” Emmett told Hair Balls.
If that future includes turning the revered rainbow stands into storefronts or hotel rooms or movie theaters or whatever, Emmett said, virtually all funding would have to come from private industry. Of course, these kinds of plans have yet to amount to anything. Emmett did say that entities continue to express interest in using the building, but he declined to go into further detail. He also mentioned that a public proposal could be made within a month or two. But once again, no details at this time.
Like the grandmother we neglect to phone, Astrodome, try to remember: We still love you, faulty plumbing and all.
-- Blake Whitaker