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Last updated: November 11. 2013 12:09AM - 1004 Views
RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI Associated Press



Voters recently rejected what county officials had touted as the only way to save the prized Houston Astrodome from demolition.
Voters recently rejected what county officials had touted as the only way to save the prized Houston Astrodome from demolition.
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HOUSTON — Indoor skiing. Amusement park. Water park. Sports memorabilia museum. Riverwalk, though there is only a bayou. And, most recently, a $217 million multipurpose facility.


There has been no shortage of proposals for how to save the Houston Astrodome.


Yet now, nearly 15 years after the last professional sports team left the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World to decay under the relentless Texas sun, voters rejected what some county officials had touted as the only way to save the prized dome from demolition.


A bond referendum would have turned the stadium, once home to MLB’s Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers, into a convention and events center. Harris County voted against it, 53 percent to 47 percent.


Still, this might not be the stadium’s last inning.


“There’s a chance,” said Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, caretaker of the Astrodome and the rest of the vast complex it’s part of, which also includes the Houston Texans’ Reliant Stadium. “The building’s still there. There’s no formal plan or authorization to demolish the building, and until somebody brings such a plan to fruition, there’s a chance.”


A decision is not on the horizon, though. County commissioners are in no rush to approve demolition and waver on other options.


“It’s up in the air,” said Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack. “The proposal was rejected by the voters. We’re back to where we were. Square one.”


The structure was a technological marvel when it opened in 1965, the first domed, air-conditioned stadium. But since 1999, the Astrodome has been a nostalgic symbol of a bygone era.


The county still pays some $2.5 million annually to maintain, power and insure the stadium. It’s also paying $8 million to remove asbestos, old ticket booths and exterior walkways. Though the building is structurally sound, the interior is decrepit. Last year, trash littered the aisles between torn, cushioned stadium seats once considered luxurious. A synthetic football field lay in a crumpled, dirty heap.


So what now?


— The Astrodome can remain standing, abandoned but a prominent part of the city’s skyline.


— The county can pay an estimated $78 million for demolition and add another $20 million to fill the gigantic hole left behind, creating an additional parking lot to add to the complex’s current 26,000 parking spaces.


— Or, after demolition, the commissioners could fill the hole with water, creating a detention pond to help with flood control in a low-lying area that abuts a major medical hub.


— The commissioners can again review some of the 21 proposals submitted by the public after the county asked for ideas. Loston said they range from the “sublime to the ridiculous.”


— They could present a proposal similar to “The New Dome Experience” that was on Tuesday’s ballot, but with either private funding or a combination of public and private dollars.


— A private investor could offer to redevelop the dome, something the county would be open to, Radack said.


Some local groups have lobbied to save the dome, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation joined them in a failed campaign to garner support for the ballot measure. A few say they will continue.


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