Beyond the Boxscore

The Astrodome needs to be blown up to make way for Houston's future Super (Bowl) visions

The Astrodome needs to be blown up to make way for Houston's future Super (Bowl) visions

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It's long time for the Astrodome to be leveled to make way for Houston's Super feature. Photo by Jack Opatrany/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
News_Baker Statue_George H.W. Bush_James Baker
James Baker III is pointing the way to another Super Bowl in Houston. Photo by Richard J. Carson
Bob McNair Andre Johnson hug
Texans owner Bob McNair is hands on with the Texans. But he's excited to have "a statesman" like Baker to lead the Super Bowl host campaign. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Places_Astrodome_aerial view
News_Baker Statue_George H.W. Bush_James Baker
Bob McNair Andre Johnson hug

The old Yankee Stadium — the House that Ruth Built no less — started to get torn down almost as soon as the new one was safely up.

The Astrodome still stands, a rotting giant in a vast parking lot, 13 years after Minute Maid Park debuted — five years after the fire marshal shuttered it for good, leaving it for the rats and that noxious dust. This isn't Fenway Park. It's not Wrigley Field. It's not that old Yankee Stadium that went through all those remodels. It's a relic that long ago lost its last bit of charm.

And the Houstonians who insist it needs to be "saved" are showing as much sense as someone featured on Hoarders.

Blow it up — already.

This is coming up (yet again) because the leaders of Houston's bid committee for the 2017 Super Bowl were officially revealed at Reliant Stadium Monday — in one of the few rooms not commandeered by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. While everyone has known that former Secretary of State James Baker III would be a key player since this year's Super Bowl week, it was still impressive to see him standing in front of that Houston Super Bowl LI logo.

With Baker as the honorary chairman and Ric Campo, the self-made CEO of Camden Property Trust, as the chairman, it's easier than ever to see a clear path to Houston landing hosting duties for another Super Bowl.

 Houstonians who insist it needs to be "saved" are showing as much sense as someone featured on Hoarders. 

As Texans owner Bob McNair pointed out, it's not like Baker is some politician or actor. He's "a statesman."

Houston has the guy who helped bring down the freaking Berlin Wall advocating for it. There is clout. And then there's clout.

Who is Miami going to find to match James Baker III? Gloria Estefan isn't going to cut it.

Houston is on roll. National publications are tripping over themselves to tout the Bayou City's "surprising" restaurant, museum and cool kid cred. The NBA All-Star Weekend just rolled out of town and H-Town proved to be more than party worthy for the likes of Jay-Z, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. It's hard to keep track of all the studies declaring Houston the City of the Future.

And then you get to the hulking ghost in the center what should be a high-tech, hip sports and retail corridor. It doesn't matter how gigantic Reliant Stadium's new video scoreboards are . . . they can't hide the dump of the Astrodome.

"The Astrodome has been a problem for a while," Campo said. "And it continues to be a problem."

This just isn't about one Super Bowl bid. Houston is already a finalist for the 2017 game, set to compete against San Francisco or Miami (those two cities are finalists for Super Bowl 50 in 2016 and whichever one loses out will compete against Houston for Super Bowl LI). It's about Houston finally turning the page and embracing its future.

Yes, imploding or tearing down the Astrodome — and making good use of the space to create some there there around Reliant Stadium — would help Houston's bid to host the 2017 Super Bowl. As McNair noted, "You never know what might be the difference in your bid."

 It doesn't matter how gigantic Reliant Stadium's new video scoreboards are . . . they can't hide the dump of the Astrodome. 

But this isn't a one week issue — not even if it is the biggest week in American sports.

This is about allowing the city to move on. When the Astrodome opened in 1965, it deserved its Eighth Wonder of the World moniker. It screamed innovation. Now, it screams . . . embarrassment.

You know what visiting sports writers inevitably ask about first when they arrive in Houston? They see the Astrodome sadly looming in a parking lot and wonder why it's still there. This happens regularly at Texans football games. It happened again and again during NBA All-Star Weekend.

People from elsewhere don't understand Houston's insistence on continuing to pour money into a broken down stadium that, let's face it, was already outdated 15 years after it opened. Yes, the Astrodome hosted some great, monumental events and it will forever live in the memories of local sports fans.

But it's simply not usable anymore. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elvin Hayes are not going to be strolling into the Astrodome to relive their colossal clash. Those days are long over. Just like the dome should be.

 Who is Miami going to find to match James Baker III? Gloria Estefan isn't going to cut it. 

At one point the Astrodome likely could have been salvaged. Some of the ideas for its possible second life were intriguing, many were downright absurd. No matter. That day is also long gone.

There have been more than enough multi-million studies. There is no need to put off a decision yet again. Sometimes, the simplest choice, the most obvious choice, is the best one. Put together a demolition crew.

The Dome Ghost

McNair is not going to come right out and say that the Astrodome needs to be torn down. The Texans owner isn't going to try and dictate what the county commissioners do. It's not his way. The Texans owner only allows that both his team and the Rodeo could really use the space.

All of Houston could use a new space. How about another Discovery Green type park with a great hotel around it?

Houston's Super Bowl bid will tout the impact of Discovery Green, how it was used for big-time concerts during the 2011 Final Four, how the new Marriott Marquis that is set to be built closer to Minute Maid will add a further destination feel to the area. Campo himself seems particularly enamored with Marquis' "Texas waterway" on the fifth floor (the Lone Star State-shaped pool CultureMap was first to report about on Dec. 17).

What about a second gathering place right by the stadium?

One thing is sure. It's time for the Astrodome to make way.

In officially accepting the Super Bowl job, Baker noted how he's one of the "dwindling breed of native Houstonians." In a city with a sometimes appalling history of leveling perfectly-useable historic buildings, a broken down, obsolete stadium is championed.

Baker brought down that wall. Who would ever thought the Astrodome would be even harder to topple?

"I think more than any other U.S. city, Houston maintains the brand of entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that has fueled our nation," Baker said.

Except when it comes to an old useless stadium that continues to haunt as it wastes away.