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June 15, 2010
Astrodome reno would cost how much?
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, owners of the Astrodome, issued a report yesterday on what to do with the erstwhile Eighth Wonder of the World, which has stood vacant since the Houston Astros left in 2000. The options include renovating it into a convention and science center, "repurposing" it into a science and technology center and a place for storage (with $324 million worth of solar panels on the roof in the shape of a world map), or razing it and turning it into a park or open plaza. (Truly horrifying cheesy renderings here.)
The stunner is the price tags: $1.35 billion for the full renovation option, and $1.13 billion for the world's largest storage shed. Even knocking down the dome would carry a high cost: $873 million if you believe the Associated Press, $128 million per the Houston Chronicle, or a mere $88 million if you use the Dallas Morning News numbers — which is still nearly triple what it cost the build the thing in the first place.
It's hard to say which numbers are correct, as if the HCSCC doesn't seem to have put any financial details into its master plan book, though there are plenty more grandiose renderings. (Including, for some reason, of a monster truck and Minnie and Mickey Mouse. Presumably because when you think science and technology, you think robot cars and horrible human-mouse hybrids.)
In any case, given the huge price tags, most of which would come out of public funds, you might think it'd be cheaper and simpler just to let the dome rot in place — right now it only costs Harris County about $2 million a year in insurance and maintenance, plus debt service, but of course the debt would need to be paid off either way. However, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett insists that the dome must go, and fast, apparently because $1 billion is a small price to pay to rid Houston of an iconic-building-turned-eyesore.
"It's beginning to look like an old ship that just kind of washed up out there," Emmett told the Chronicle, noting that when fans attend the NCAA Final Four at neighboring Reliant Stadium next year, their eyes will be accosted by the sight of the empty Astrodome. "I don't think people will tolerate it much longer."
That's what they said about the human-mouse hybrids.