"The Astrodome's days of sitting idle and abandoned are over," Judge Ed Emmett proclaimed as he and his colleagues on the Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a $105 million plan Tuesday to preserve and revitalize the world's first domed stadium.
The plan will raise the Astrodome floor by 30 feet to ground level, providing two levels of underground parking with 1,400 spaces. Above the parking area, nine acres of open space will be created for festivals and other uses inside the Dome, which was labeled the "Eighth Wonder of The World" when it opened in 1965.
The officials unanimously authorized the Office of the County Engineer to spend $10.5 million on the plan's initial engineering and architectural phase.
The plan does not require voter approval because $35 million of the funding will come from the county budget and the remaining $70 million will come from expected revenue from parking and the hotel occupancy tax. Historical tax credits, along with tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) and lease revenue, could lower taxpayers' share, officials pointed out in a press release, adding that the cost to save the Astrodome would be even less than the $35 million estimated demolition cost.
And, with the Dome intact, other revenue-producing park-like attractions may be developed in the future.
The plan will next go to the Texas Historical Commission, which must approve any substantive alterations to the 51-year-old county-owned structure.
Amid much debate, the Astrodome has sat largely empty since 2003 when George Strait & the Ace in the Hole Band performed the last concert there. It gained national attention in 2005 when it was used to house 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2013, voters turned down a $217 million bond proposal to refurbish the neglected facility into a multi-purpose event center.