With the first rays of sunshine in Houston came some much-needed good news. Harris County officials are reporting that the Astrodome was spared from the widespread and destructive flooding throughout the Houston area as a result of Hurricane Harvey. No word yet on how the redevelopment proposal may be impacted by the larger recovery efforts and rebuilding. Please stayed tuned to SavingPlaces.org for updates.
In September 2016, Harris County Commissioners’ Court voted unanimously to move forward with a major renovation project that would reinvent the Astrodome for generations to come.
The $105 million project will raise the floor of the Dome to make way for 1,400 parking spaces underneath. Inside, the vast, column-less interior will be transformed into a multifunctional park and event space. This will allow the iconic structure to host countless activities year-round, connecting millions of Harris County residents in ways never before possible.
Want to learn more? Check out these teasers from a recent report published by the Office of County Judge Ed Emmett. You can download the full version by clicking here.
In 2003, George Strait performed what was thought to be the final concert to ever be held at the Houston Astrodome, AKA the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” That’s why today we are beyond excited that one of our first National Treasures is on its way to a new life following a meeting of the Harris County Commissioners that was held yesterday afternoon.
In a unanimous decision, the Commissioners Court approved $105 million in funding to begin the process of raising the ground level of the architectural marvel to allow for the creation of 1,400 new, underground parking spaces in two levels. Once that project is complete, nine acres above it will become available as a potential venue for everything from rodeos to boat shows to concerts.
A $217 million bond measure that the National Trust supported was unable to pass a popular vote in 2013, but this new allocation does not require voter approval because one third is directly funded through the county budget and the rest is slated to come from parking fees and the local hotel occupancy tax. In fact, the cost of the project could even lower with additional historic tax credits and other business incentives.
After tirelessly working to save the building for the last several years, we would like to thank Judge Ed Emmett and the county commissioners for their tireless work to reuse this one-of-a-kind sports and entertainment icon for future generations to enjoy.
You know how they say everything is bigger in Texas? Well, turns out that's even true of birthday parties. More than 25,000 people showed up on Thursday, April 9 to celebrate the Astrodome's big 5-0. Happy birthday to the 8th Wonder!
People waited in line for hours (in a line that circled the Dome almost twice!) for a chance to go inside the Astrodome for the first time in years. Harris County officials and hosts Preservation Houston and the National Trust planned to open the building for an hour that evening during the party outside, but by 10:40 pm when the last person in line finally entered, we were all running on adrenaline spiked by an outpouring of love for the Dome.
Party-goers celebrated outside with a 3D Astrodome-shaped cake, Dome Dogs, and “Dome Faux'm,” local (Dome-inspired) brewery 8th Wonder’s take on the beer served to generations of sports fans. Many of the supporters who came out were decked out in Astros gear, both current and classic, and chants of “Luv Ya Blue” and “Cruuuuuuuuuz” could be heard throughout the crowd as former Astros and Oilers players were recognized among the masses.
On every enthusiastic face, from children entering the Dome for the first time in their lives to people who had been there on Opening Day in 1965, the message was loud and clear: This Place Matters!
In December 2014, the National Trust co-sponsored a national Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Services Panel to examine reuse alternatives for the iconic Astrodome in Houston. A well-respected service of the Urban Land Institute, the Advisory Panel pulled together experts in historic preservation, land use, parking management, financing, development, and design from across the country. The one-week, intensive exercise included conversations with more than 100 stakeholders and organizations around Houston and Texas, and culminated in a public presentations of initial recommendations from the ULI panel of experts.
The final report and recommendations were released by the Urban Land Institute in March 2015 to much applause by most stakeholders and Houston area leaders. The report is bold and prescriptive. In it, the Advisory Panel calls for the unequivocal preservation and reuse of the landmark Astrodome. “The panel concluded that the Astrodome can and should live on” as a grand civic space complementing the surrounding NRG Park’s current and future tenants.
The execution of the ULI Advisory Panel and the subsequent release of its recommendations are key steps forward in the ongoing effort to identify and implement a viable and sustainable reuse for the Astrodome. Lovingly known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” during its heyday, the first domed stadium, constructed in 1965, has been vacant since 2008 when it was deemed unsafe for occupancy. With its designed/intended use replaced by newer stadiums and ballparks in Houston, the challenge to preserving this engineering marvel is to find a viable reuse.
And in the can-do spirit of Houston and Harris County (the entity that owns the Dome), government leaders are thinking big once again. Per its original intent to provide climate-controlled entertainment and recreation for residents and visitors who otherwise must cope with the city’s oppressive heat and humidity, as well as ravenous mosquitoes and the more-than-occasional summer storm downpour, the “grand civic space” will carry the concept beyond the bleacher seats to allow for recreational and educational activities for all visitors to the Astrodome park.
The panel recommends creating a flexible and innovative indoor park space to function as a multi-use facility with public, philanthropic and private components to the design and programming. The space will become a cultural and recreational destination for residents and visitors to Houston, and will honor the history and innovation of the Astrodome and those who attended events and played there. The park will recognize and play a special role in the continued growth of the existing NRG Park tenants, the legendary Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans, as well as the giant annual Off-Shore Technology Conference – the largest energy industry gathering in the county. It will celebrate Houston’s diversity while welcoming its citizens and guests to a truly public space.
The report outlines design, programming, development, and financing, and offers a suggested timeline for implementation. While the report doesn’t set out a specific plan, it offers detailed recommendations, accompanied by examples, references, and possible reuse scenarios to aid Harris County leaders and their partners in thinking about the Astrodome’s reuse. This framework draws heavily on the foundation of the Astrodome – the can-do spirit, technological prowess, innovation, and big thinking that built the Dome amid America’s energy revolution and the race to space in the 1960s. It is bold. It is new. It is challenging. And it won’t happen overnight. But the tides seem to have turned in favor of preserving and reusing the Eighth Wonder of the World and the landmark most associated with Houston’s innovative spirit.
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