April 1, 2001-2011
Exclusive: Wrestling plan could rescue world famous Astrodome
Ten years ago to this very day — April 1, 2001 — 67,925 screaming fans filled the Astrodome when the WWF presented Wrestlemania X-Seven — the largest crowd to ever occupy the domed stadium. Since the famed building has been closed for years, the sound of fans booing at their favorite villain has become a mere memory of the good ol' days in the Dome.
It’s ironic — uncanny even — that on this event’s anniversary, officials of a newly-formed wrestling organization revealed their plans to turn the Dome into “the world’s largest wrestling arena.”
“The building is perfect for our sport,” said president and CEO Herkimer Haroldton of H. Haroldton Wrestling Group, Inc. “Wrestling fans are tough and don’t need fancy digs and don’t care that the stadium seats are ratty – after all, this is the historic Astrodome. Nothing else like it anywhere. Just give ‘em a beer and a brawl and they are happy. That’s what we aim to do.”
Haroldton Wrestling is a company founded by private investors who are former wrestlers themselves. Haroldton emphasized that the recent publicity about the plight of the Astrodome was the tipping point for his company to “bite the bullet and just do it. We’ve been talking about doing this for years.”
The proposal was enthusiastically accepted by all Harris County commissioners except Jerry Eversole. The longtime commissioner said he was eager to talk, but his attorney, Rusty Hardin, advised him not to make a case either for or against the plan at this time.
Because Haroldton plans a small wrestling school in the former luxury suite occupied by Roy Hofheinz (the mastermind behind the construction of the Dome in the 1960s), Mayor Annise Parker said she would propose that the facility be exempt from the new drainage fee.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials were more wary about the project. One official said he worries that wrestling might detract from the wholesome atmosphere of Reliant Park and will study the proposal closely.
Haroldton said the group has no plans to repair the leaky roof or install a new air-conditioning system because "wrestlers like to sweat." But to impress the national media in town for the Final Four, he has contracted with several commercial power washing companies to work around-the-clock to clean the dingy structure between now and late Saturday afternoon, when the first basketball game tips off next door at Reliant Stadium.
The length of the lease is not being released but insiders say a 10-year deal that will expire on April 1, 2021 is likely.
To make the deal work, Haroldton Wrestling will sublet part of the facility to the International UFO Search Institute (UFOSI), which will make the Dome’s basement its world headquarters.
Until now, UFOSI has been a low-key operation. Company spokesman Ofu Ariel explains, "There is just too much unexplained phenomena to ignore. Over the last four years alone we’ve accumulated such an overload of new data that we were forced to search for a bigger location."
The fact that the structure has an other-worldly appearance itself was a deciding factor. “People are always saying that the Dome looks like a spaceship that landed in Houston,” laughed Haroldton, “so it seems like a perfect fit for UFOSI.”
The lack of air-conditioning sealed the deal since the UFO staff said they prefer to remain grounded in reality at all times.
It’s certainly an odd pairing of companies, but great news that something is finally happening to put the historic building to good use after so many failed starts.
Sure beats Tilman Ferttita's AstroSafari Theme Park idea that caused such a hoo-haw last April 1.