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Astrodome Showdown Set

Headed for a showdown: Astrodome's fate could be decided in key summer vote

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Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Efforts to make the Astrodome a State Antiquities Landmark took a key step forward Tuesday as the state Antiquities Advisory Board voted unanimously to forward the application to the Texas Historical Commission. Such a designation would prevent the Astrodome from being altered or demolished without approval from the commission.

The commission will make a final decision on the application in July — and that could be the impetus (finally) for a frank and serious discussion on what to do with the world's first domed stadium. 

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett plans to hold a large "stakeholders' meeting" next month, bringing RodeoHouston and Houston Texans officials, preservationists and a host of interested parties on both sides to discuss "where to go from here," said spokesman Joe Stinebaker. Emmett also plans to hold public meetings around Houston in an attempt to build consensus toward a solution that can be presented to the historical commission this summer.

"There is no move to tear down the Dome," Stinebaker said. "But historical designation could tie the county's hands in making it more difficult and expensive to do anything."

Backers of efforts to save the Astrodome believe it cleared a "major hurdle" Tuesday with the advisory commission's vote. "There's no going back now," an elated Ted Powell said in a telephone interview from Fort Worth after the vote.

 "There is no move to tear down the Dome. But historical designation could tie the county's hands in making it more difficult and expensive to do anything." 

Powell, a retired chemical engineer who spearheaded efforts to protect and restore the Sylvan Beach Pavilion in La Porte, and filmmaker Cynthia Neely, who once proposed creating a gigantic movie production studio in the Astrodome (and is an occasional CultureMap contributor), applied for the historical designation. In February, the Dome was named to the National Register of Historic Places, a prerequisite to having the structure declared a state landmark, largely due to the duo's efforts.

In forwarding the application, the advisory board turned away a plea from Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation deputy executive director Kevin Hoffman to delay the vote. Reliant Park general manager Mark Miller and Emmett's chief of staff Kathy Luhn accompanied Hoffman to the meeting in Fort Worth but did not formally address the board.

Once an application is filed, no changes can be made to a structure under consideration during the review process, Texas Historical Commission spokeswoman Debbi Head told CultureMap, so the Astrodome has technically been protected from major changes or demolition while the process for antiquities landmark designation winds its way toward a resolution. 

But Powell believes the vote signals an important turning point for the Dome's future. "It brings qualified folks to the table to make sure the historical integrity (of the building) is preserved," he said.

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