With the failure of the $217 million bond issue that would have raised the funds necessary to convert the Astrodome into a multi-purpose convention center and event space, Harris County Commissioners and other public officials are deciding what should be done about the building that County Judge Ed Emmett compared to "a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot."
Harris County engineering chief John Blount told the Chronicle that much of the $20 million cost to tear down the Astrodome comes from the need to fill in the 35 foot-deep, nine-acre hole that will be created by the demolition. Thankfully, Harris County Pct. 3 commissioner Steve Radack has a plan to save taxpayers from that expense. He wants to turn the hole into a detention pond for storm run-off from the Reliant parking lots.
"It makes no sense to have a perfectly good hole and spend $20 million to fill it," Radack tells CultureMap.
The commissioner adds that run-off from the Reliant parking lots contributes to flooding in the Medical Center. His proposal would solve that problem and provide "some green in (the) asphalt jungle" that is the Reliant complex. "It could make that $85 million Discovery Green look like junk. We could make it a first-class looking thing."
"It makes no sense to have a perfectly good hole and spend $20 million to fill it."
He thinks there might even be some Federal money for the project, given that the Army Corps of Engineers has already contributed to efforts to prevent nearby Brays Bayou from flooding.
Although Radack says that he's "open-minded" about what to do with the Dome, he's made up his mind about one thing. "I will vote against tearing it down and turning it into a parking lot . . . We don't need any more parking (at Reliant)."
Asked about whether his open-minded attitude extends to the idea proposed in University of Houston architecture student Ryan Slattery's thesis, which calls for stripping the dome to its steel skeleton and putting in a park, Radack admits some skepticism. He notes that the steel used to build the Astrodome wasn't designed to be exposed to the elements and suspects that "it would be a challenge to keep it looking decent."
As Commissioners Court continues its debate about how to proceed, Radack makes one prediction. "Whatever goes there will be a lot of money," he says.