After the seemingly endless string of ideas for what to do with the rotting corpse we used to call the Astrodome, ranging from novel (leaving just the roof and putting a park under it) to the downright ridiculous (indoor snow skiing?), that latest from County Commissioners Court is said to harken back to what Judge Roy Hofheinz intended when he dreamed up the world's first indoor stadium: keeping things inside.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who called the most recent concept from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans to build an expansive green space surrounded by buttresses from the Dome "a silly plan," decided to bring his own vision before the people on Tuesday, unveiling the concept of an indoor park complete with green space, a pavilion, areas for music and exercise, as well as educational activities for kids, something being touted by Commissioner El Franco Lee who presides over the Astrodome's district.
For once, I can't use this space to level heavy-handed criticism at an actual idea regarding the Dome because, quite frankly, from the perspective of Houston, this might actually make sense.
The concept of a park would seem to mean going outside, but so does walking from building to building -- and we have done everything possible to connect our downtown skyscrapers with tunnels like crazy mole people afraid to be touched by sunlight. And if Minnesota can have an entire amusement/water park inside a giant mall to protect northerners from a frigid death outside while allowing them to ride a roller coaster in comfort inside, why the hell can't we turn the Astrodome into a place to hang out on the weekends or go to a festival? Our humidity may not kill you -- even though you might wish you were dead -- but it is just the right kind of unbearable that has forced folks in Minnesota inside, something they have embraced for decades.
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At this point, anything that could pass the muster of voters would be welcome. Though Rodeo Houston and the Texans trotted out a survey recently saying a majority of people liked their plan to demolish the Dome and replace it with something that, from renderings, looked like an Aztec burial ground and sacrificial temple, I'd love to see their numbers up against an indoor park, particularly in the dog days of summer when the heat index is hitting 112.
This plan also preserves perhaps the most important element of the iconic structure: the roof. Anyone who has lived here long enough to remember that area before NRG Stadium and the towers of the Houston Medical Center no doubt remembers being able to see the Dome from miles away. It is the closest thing Houston has to a landmark piece of architecture and it is worth preserving.
Notably, Emmett's invoking of the legendary Judge Hofheinz is not inaccurate. At the time the stadium was built, fans of professional sports, particularly baseball, were forced to suffer the often brutal elements that come with being outside here in August and September. Imagine a muddy stadium immediately after an afternoon rain storm. Not only would it feel like a steam room, but it would smell like sewage and attract mosquitoes the size of a small child. So, he built an indoor park...this one in the form of a ballpark, but a park nevertheless.
As far as I'm concerned, this proposal is a winner because it keeps the Astrodome's structure and roof intact while giving us all a place to while away summer days without dying of heat stroke. Now, if they can just bring back the scoreboard...