Astrodome to get $105m renovation in less colossal waste of funds than prior proposals

Oh, yesssss, Harris County has approved spending $105 million to renovate the Astrodome into something called an “event center”! Is that sarcasm? I don’t even know anymore!

To recap: The Astros and the Oilers departed the Eighth Wonder of the World a couple of decades back, leaving it empty. Subsequent plans to spend $1.35 billion to turn it into a convention and science center, to spend $400 million to build a sports arena inside it, and to spend $217 million into a convention and event center all failed over the years. So if nothing else, $105 million seems like a more reasonable price tag, though some of that may just be due to anchoring.

In exchange for its money, the county will reportedly get the floor of the dome raised up two floors — no, I don’t know how high a “floor” is in dome measurements — which will allow for more parking underneath and reduce seating capacity, presumably. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show are both excited, though if they’re that excited, they could have offered enough in increased rental fees to pay off the $105 million cost, instead of counting on property taxes, hotel taxes, and parking revenues to cover the bill.

So I guess if you want a take from me, it’s that while I’m always happy to see old buildings repurposed rather than just demolished, and also happy to see ten-digit price tags come down to nine digits, this still doesn’t seem like exactly a super use of public funds. Too bad they can’t have it serve as a rugby stadium, too — then we’d be talking!


10 comments on “Astrodome to get $105m renovation in less colossal waste of funds than prior proposals

  1. Devil’s advocate.

    If this essentially ends up a replacement for the Astro Arena in terms of convention space then it is what it is.

    Though personally I’d love for Astroworld to make a return.

  2. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has been in pursuit of a giant sarcophagus to be retrofitted into a memorial for him. He’s finally convinced 3 so-called conservative members of Commissioners Court to vote with the one liberal in support of his memorial.

  3. Useless fact I learned when I toured the Dome as youngster. It didn’t have a concrete floor. It was kept as dirt. Better for rodeo. Unless that tour guide was lying to me, just like the one in San Antonio lied about the basement in the Alamo.

    • The floor of the Astrodome is concrete. I’ve walked on it when they were building NRG Stadium. They would bring in dirt for the rodeo, monster truck, and motocross and then remove it when the event was over.

      • I think you are right Mark. I’ve never been there either, but I recall that the Astrodome originally had a grass field in it (hence the translucent dome, which was later painted over). This would imply that the floor was dirt, though it is possible it was dirt over concrete as well I guess.

        When they couldn’t get the grass to grow, three guys were kind enough to invent Astroturf for them.

      • Oh sorry, that was a reference to a major plot point in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. His stolen bike was supposedly in the basement of the Alamo. The Alamo tour guide found this to be comical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYfjq3ZYZbA

  4. On one hand this seems like throwing good money after bad… but it may not be.

    The flip side of “we are spending even more money on the Astrodome” is that doing so eliminates the demolition costs that would otherwise be involved. No idea what that would be, and of course there will be operating costs going forward regardless… but if spending $100m on the facility means it can come close to carrying itself for another 20 years or so, it might not be the worst use of $100m in capital.

    Since the building shares a parking lot with other venues, it isn’t like demolishing the Dome will provide a windfall profit from land sales… which makes demolition an even more dodgy financial proposition.

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