Rest in Peace, Astrodome, You Deserved So Much Better

Categories: Sports

Astrodome Program.jpg
The Astrodome, before the bastards let it waste away.
From April 1988 through January 2000, I spent a lot of time at the Astrodome. About 100-150 nights a year, each year, more or less. My first job was operating the out-of-town games scoreboard for the Astros. I carried camera cables on the turf during Oiler games, dodged Monster Trucks and cattle. I was the guy who created the DiamondVision graphics/stats for each player during Astros games.

I have lots of great memories of my years working at the Dome. My years there were, without a doubt, the best years on any job I've ever had. On what other job could you discuss Gravity's Rainbow with Larry Dierker, who'd been your favorite player when you were a kid? One of my most treasured items is a lightbulb from the old home run spectacular that was torn up for the benefit of Bud Adams. I've never experienced a more electric feeling than being on the floor of the Dome when Selena performed her first rodeo concert.

The Astrodome is part of my DNA. And I despise the many so-called city, county and state officials who have allowed the Dome to deteriorate into the condition that it is in today. If Hell exists, then Bud Adams will go there because of what he did to it, blackmailing the county into ripping out the scoreboard so he could have more seats, then departing before the lease had expired and before the work he wanted done to the stadium had even been paid off. And don't let Drayton McLane off the hook, either, because once that bastard saw he could scam the taxpayers into building him a new pleasure palace, he let the place deteriorate.

I've long advocated that the Astrodome needs to be saved. That in a city known for destroying its past the Dome needs to stand to show that Houston was once a forward-thinking city, setting the mark for stadiums and architecture and the future. Nothing symbolizes both the past and the future of Houston better than the Astrodome, an architecture marvel of the 1960s that nobody has yet eclipsed.

Reliant Stadium dwarfs the Dome. It holds more people. It can host bigger events. But it's got the personality of an aircraft hangar. The grass constantly dies and is not safe. The first hurricane it faced, it suffered severe roof damage. How many hurricanes has the Dome handled since 1965 without suffering any structural damage, yet Ike forced the Texans on the road for a month while the NFL shuffled around league schedules. The Dome was a totally original baseball stadium. Minute Maid Park is a pathetic rehash of multiple ballparks with the trashy personality of an MTV reality-show contestant.

The consultants released another study Wednesday on what to do with the Astrodome. There was nothing original in the taxpayer-funded study. Nothing that hasn't been proposed before. In fact, the consultants seemed more concerned with saving and rehabilitating the totally useless and totally unnecessary Reliant Arena than they did with figuring out a real solution for the derelict mess that the Dome has become.

Astrodome.jpg
It was the true Eighth Wonder of the World.
Essentially they want to raise the floor and turn the Dome into a small venue for football, soccer, hockey, basketball and concerts. But that's also what they want to do with Reliant Arena. And what the consultants want to do with the Dome is what is supposed to be done with that new taxpayer-funded paradise the Dynamo is playing in. You know, that new small stadium meant for hosting soccer, football and concerts. And one of the purposes for renovating Hofheinz Pavilion, besides giving the Cougars a modern basketball facility, is using it, once again, for concerts. And I'm sure Les Alexander would love Harris County trying to steal business from his Harris County-funded arena.

The work wouldn't be cheap -- the proposed cost for the Dome renovation is $270 million while the Reliant Arena would be over $385 million. It's for an idea that, more than likely, the Rodeo will veto, just like it's vetoed every other idea for renovating the Dome -- frankly, if the County really wants to do anything besides destroy the Dome, then they should just hand it over to the Rodeo and tell them to do with it what they will.

I love the Astrodome. It is still the Eighth Wonder of the World, something that will never, ever be said about Reliant Stadium or Minute Maid Park. But something needs to be done. And that something is something I thought I would never write, never say, never believe. It's time to put the Dome out of its misery. It needs to be demolished. Make the space a memorial of some kind with lots of green space and trees. Place statues about the grounds of the great athletes who once roamed the building.

It's not the perfect solution. But it's clear that Harris County officials are incompetent and don't give a damn. The consultants do nothing but spend money and offer up nothing realistic. And if they were asked in private, it's pretty clear Rodeo officials would be more than happy if it were gone.

The Astrodome has suffered enough. Let's just finally end it all now. Before more money's wasted. Before the Dome falls apart further. Before another magical casino/hotel/convention center plan gets offered up as the totally unrealistic solution.

Rest in Peace, old friend. You deserved so much better.


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11 comments
Tallhack
Tallhack

Houston is famous for its gaudy, fleeting, shiny crap. We invented boob jobs. Everything more than 30 years old is just in the way of something newer, louder, and at the beginning of its inevitable path to obsolescence. Heck, we can't even maintain a program to explore outer space. A giant boob-shaped dome needs to be put out to pasture like so many other washed up strippers. Tear it down. Start again. Don't look back. That's the Houston we all know and love. 

Jkn1
Jkn1

As I've told my friends for years, no one wants to be the politician that green lights the inevitable demo of the Dome. I'm sure Reliant stadium would love to build a 10 story parking lot there and call it done.

This city has never loved it's past, no reason to start now.

TyMo
TyMo

Harsh words for Minute Maid Park...I agree on Reliant Stadium, it's a shoe box with a fancy roof IMO. One thing though, BBVA Compass Stadium was not tax-payer funded, the land was, but the stadium was a private venture and the team is leasing the land, so all taxpayer money will eventually wind up back with the city and county.

Prof Topkat
Prof Topkat

John, you've written an outstanding piece.  And I'm glad you've finally seen the light.

Tearing down, blowing up or otherwise demolishing the Astrodome is way past due.  It's been an albatross around the taxpayers' neck for years.  Nostalgia is fine, but it's not worth the waste of money, either with paying off the debt and paying for the upkeep of an empty hulk or paying several hundred million dollars for some harebrained multipurpose dream. 

BlueTexas2k
BlueTexas2k

The Rodeo Association has WAY too much power in the decision.  The Rodeo Association has vetoed every idea and they shouldn't have that power.

TTY
TTY

The Dome is a has been. It's dilapidated and needs to be demolished. There are some buildings that are historic and beautiful and there are some that need to be torn down. The Dome fits into the latter. Adios. More parking at Reliant!

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

I agree with this writer no one gives a shit, and the Dome deseves better.

Sidwill13
Sidwill13

Who cares about an idiotic rodeo?  Bunch of cow crap for brains cowboy want a bes!!!

MASSMURDERMEDIA
MASSMURDERMEDIA

good idea...  better still, move reliant over there...

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