The Turnstile

Mini-Astrodome? Houston floats ideas as state considers historical status

The mini-Astrodome. (Via Gensler)
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The mini-Astrodome. (Via Gensler)

The Houston Astrodome, once dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, has sat vacant for years, a victim of changing times and a lust for skyboxes. Like many other 60s-era municipal stadiums, the Astrodome is a venue without a purpose, and also like those other stadiums, its days could end in nostalgia-shattering demolition. Voters last November shot down a proposal to convert the Astrodome to a convention center, leaving no clear future for the facility.

There are moves afoot to preserve the Astrodome's legacy, however, The Texas Historical Commission is currently discussing whether to designate the forlorn, empty dome a "state antiquities landmark." Doing so would make demolition of the facility much more difficult, but would not answer the question of what exactly to do with the structure.

At the opposite extreme, the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have floated a proposal that seems both intriguing and directly contradictory to the old "Everything's Bigger In Texas" line: a mini-dome, constructed in the middle of the footprint of the old one. The idea, drafted by the Houston offices of the architectural firm Gensler, would keep the "bones" of the Astrodome and develop an open space within. The miniature Astrodome at the center would be a museum honoring the old one, though presumably not with similarly miniaturized versions of Earl Campbell, Billie Jean King or Jeff Bagwell.

Proponents of the idea say that the park would also help move crowds around adjacent Reliant Stadium, home of the Texans. The proposal pegs the cost at about $66 million. 

Regardless of this idea, however, the Astrodome appears safe for the immediate future. "Demolition, contrary to popular belief, does not appear imminent," wrote the Dallas Morning News' Mark Lamster in March. "That would be a costly undertaking in itself — anywhere from $5 million to $80 million, depending on whom you ask — and there is no consensus for such a drastic measure among the five commissioners who run Harris County."

Could be worse, of course. Houston could be dealing with an epic catastrophe like the ruins of the Pontiac Silverdome, which opened ten years after the Astrodome. At least that's not yet a reality.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook or on Twitter.

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