Houston voters reject bond proposal to save Astrodome
The will of the people of Harris County have spoken, and the (Reliant) Astrodome did not win the election for Mayor. Or more importantly, the election for a $217M bond proposal to repair and re-purpose the decaying infrastructure into convention space for commercial use. The vote tally with 2/3 of precincts reporting was somewhere near 53% to 47% (credit Houston Chronicle). Had the bond passed, funding would have been used to convert the structure into convention space with surrounding areas, shared by Reliant Stadium and other use space, into green space. With failure, the wrecking ball is likely.
The Astrodome has been fallow without permanent occupancy since 1999 when the Houston Astros played their final game in the so-called “Eighth Wonder of the World”. First opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium, it was the first such structure in football or baseball. The climate control was a necessity given the oppressively humid Houston summers, in combination with the swarms of mosquitoes that call the Bayou City home. All future sports teams in Houston have likewise had a retractable roof. The Houston Oilers began sharing the space in 1968, before leaving for Tennessee, partially due to the deteriorating stadium conditions, in 1997. The Houston Texans never played here, having their own stadium built right next door as part of their incentive to attract a franchise.
Other notable events in the Astrodome include the 1992 Republican Convention, the Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams heavyweight mismatch, concerts from Elvis, Guns and Roses, The Jackson 5, Rolling Stones, and U2, the 1989 NBA All Star Game, WWF Wrestlemania X-7 (featuring The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin), and the so called Battle of the Sexes tennis tilt between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Talk about variety (all via Wikipedia). One of the more recent footnotes in Astrodome history was as a makeshift shelter for bussed-in Hurricane Katrina evacuees after the Superdome structure failed.
Because of the aging, complicated structure, the wrecking ball itself was rumored to cost over $75M, so it’s expensive if you do, or expensive if you don’t. Local leaders had punted (pardon the pun) by just letting it sit there, but maintenance costs were also eating at county budgets.
Houston sports fans turned up in droves last Saturday to purchase remnants of the old structure, including swaths of turf, seats, and even autographed memorabilia. Unfortunately, the approximately $700K raised is less than one half of one percent of the proceeds sought in the bond election needed for the full project.
– David Whitlock
Editors note: the author of this article lives in Harris County and voted for the Bond
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