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County Commissioners Approve $105 Million Plan to Save the Astrodome (Ta Da!)

After sitting vacant and in disrepair for years, the Astrodome is about to get the makeover, Harris County Commissioners Court announced today. 

County officials announced Tuesday morning that commissioners have unanimously approved a $105 million Astrodome Revitalization Plan, saving the dome from demolition.

The expansive plan includes a project to raise the ground floor of the Dome two floors, making room for 1,400 parking spaces beneath it. Commissioners intend the eight-acre area above the parking "column-free and weatherproof open space" — to be used for large festivals and events, such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Offshore Technology Conference, and the Houston Auto Show, officials wrote in a handout.

The Astrodome's upper levels — 550,000 square feet of space — will also be redeveloped, though officials did not specify how.

All in all, county officials estimate audiences could be watching cowboys wrangle livestock in four and a half years or less.

Commissioners have split the revitalization plan into two phases: The first will include the "architectural and engineering work," costing an estimated $10.5 million and taking roughly 12 to 18 months to complete. The second phase — the actual construction — will cost approximately $94 million and be completed in two to three years. 

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The Dome has been closed since 2009, when fire code violations led inspectors to declare it unfit for occupancy. Built in 1965 as the first domed stadium in the world, it had been home to the Houston Astros, the Houston Oilers and the rodeo. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it also housed hundreds of New Orleans refugees. Following its 2009 closure, county officials had toyed with various plans to revive it, though the threat of its destruction loomed larger in 2013, after voters rejected a $217 million bond proposal to renovate it.

This time, according to county officials, the big renovation will be paid for with up to $35 million coming from the Harris County General Fund, another estimated $35 million coming from the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund, and another estimated $35 million coming from the Parking Enterprise Fund (all that revenue the county makes at various lots that charge you to park). 

Commissioners expect much of the cost to be ultimately offset by revenue sources including rent and all the tourism at the Dome.

Still, while the Dome appears to be saved, see our story earlier this year on the "If you build it, they will come" logic that county officials have seemed to apply to the Dome throughout their planning.

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