Another Visit Inside the Abandoned Astrodome, and Still No One Knows What to Do with It
It's been a common theme every year around RodeoHouston season: Houstonians start asking again about the plight of the Reliant Astrodome and arguing among themselves about what is to be done with the dilapidated Eighth Wonder. It's a giant elephant sitting in the middle of Houston's biggest annual event, and no one can agree on how or if we can part with it.
Photos By Craig Hlavaty
This week was no different as Houston news outlets began reporting on the study that the Houston Texans and RodeoHouston released as the last cowboy and carnie left the city. The study found that it would cost $29 million to demolish the Dome and replace it with a 1,600-space parking lot.
The price tag alone enticed some who are sick of staring at the damned thing. Still other previous studies place that number higher, if a plaza were to be built in the Dome's place.
The main narrative goes that, if you are hoping for another Super Bowl to come to Houston, as soon as 2017, something, really anything, has to be done with the Dome, simple as that.
But on Thursday afternoon, Harris County Sports Convention Corporation chairman Edgar Colon said that the Dome wasn't the only thing hindering a bowl bid.
What those other things were he didn't specify. What could they be? A hulking mass of steel and concrete smack in the middle of the complex isn't the only thing?
Last year around this time, I was part of a media group allowed into the Astrodome for a visit. We came back with embarrassing pictures of Harris County's neglect of the building that seemed to break Houston's Astrodome-saving spirit. How did it get this bad, why was no one doing anything and why were we still paying for it years after it was suitable for public use?
The pictures and TV footage seem to serve two audiences: those that want it to be restored and renovated for something, and those who see the neglect and decay as good reasons to implode it.
And maybe sell grandstand seats in the parking lot.
With the Dome in the news again this week, of course the time has come for another stroll through the stadium. This trip was a bit shorter, though, and not as intensive as last year's.
The Dome floor is covered in RodeoHouston supplies, from trams and barricades to seats. The rubber floor covering for Reliant's football games is stacked in left field in giant piles. Turf used for high school and college games is also stored on the floor in huge spools.
The stadium is still in football formation, north to south, with the old turf still laid down. This was the turf used for the filming of Friday Night Lights, complete with the last official Astrodome logo attached.
The Oilers and Astros signs on the south end zone were also props from the Lights shoot. Inside the old Oilers locker room on a whiteboard is a list of Permian and Carter jersey numbers not being used for filming.