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Astrodome Plan A Joke

New Astrodome plan something only Austin Powers could love: Texans, Rodeo have to do better than a joke

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Proposed Astrodome Park July 2014
Texans and RodeoHouston officials have floated the idea of replacing the Astrodome with a mini-replica in a park. Courtesy rendering
Astrodome Ryan Slattery's rendering as park
UH grad student Ryan Slattery suggested stripping the dome to its skeleton. Mayor Annise Parker/Facebook
Astrodome hole before construction
Lake Astrodome? Columbia.edu
Golden Nugget Biloxi casino May 2014
Golden Nugget Astrodome? Photo by Clifford Pugh
Proposed Astrodome Park July 2014
Astrodome Ryan Slattery's rendering as park
Astrodome hole before construction
Golden Nugget Biloxi casino May 2014
Clifford Pugh newest column mug head shot

In the ongoing saga over what to do with the Astrodome, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans officials are floating an idea of tearing down the historic structure and replacing it with a park resembling the wildly successful Discovery Green in downtown Houston.

However, renderings of the proposed park look more like a third-rate Stonehenge with a mini-replica of the Astrodome in the center than a fitting tribute to the one-time Eighth Wonder of the World.

 If you're going to propose to tear down the Dome, at least offer an interesting solution for debate.  

The plan is ripe for parody in a Saturday Night Live sketch (Maybe Mini-Me from the Austin Power movies could pop out of the mini-Dome every hour on the hour), but these folks are apparently serious.

It's no secret that I believe the Dome is an an important part of Houston's history and should be saved at all costs. (My solution: Legalize gambling and sell the Dome to billionaire Tilman Fertitta for a casino/amusement park.)

But if you're going to propose to tear down the Dome, at least offer an interesting solution for debate. "It just doesn't seem very innovative," Beth Wiedower, a senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told the Chronicle, which broke the story.

That's an understatement.

The $66 million plan developed by Gensler calls for demolishing the dome and developing a park on its blueprint, with odd columns the exact height of the former structure encircling the space. Each of the 72 columns would contain a tribute to an event, athlete or entertainer, like Elvis Presley or Earl Campbell, associated with the dome. The space would also contain stages for outdoor concerts and events.

While officials liken it to Discovery Green, it contains virtually none of the features that have made the downtown park so successful. There are no water spouts to run through, lakes or restaurants in the proposed project, which is dubbed the "Astrodome Hall of Fame."

And while Discovery Green is an urban area and easily accessible (and free), the proposed Astrodome park would be in the middle of a concrete lot (with paid admission for parking to get into the compound) and likely not accessible except during events in NRG Park.

The plan is far less interesting than some that have been bandied about, including a proposal from University of Houston graduate student Ryan Slattery to strip the Dome to its skeleton as a park and grazing spot for animals during the rodeo. The bare bones frame could be Houston's version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Even Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack's idea to turn the Astrodome space into a lake, though seemingly said with tongue-in-cheek, is more imaginative than the Stonehenge option.

It's no secret that Rodeo and Texan officials have been against saving the dome for more than a decade; some have argued that their opposition has led to the inability to find a solution as the structure continues to deteriorate.

If the Rodeo/Texans proposal appears to be a trial balloon conveniently leaked to the press to gauge reaction, it hasn't exactly spurred a stampede of support for the project.

While two county commissioners expressed qualified interest , Harris County Judge Ed Emmett remains cool to it and continues to seek alternatives to demolition.

All it takes is someone to think big, the way Astrodome creator Roy Hofheinz did, and find the money to finance it.

An impossible task? In a city with no limits, I still believe we can do better than this.

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