The Astrodome Is Our Roman Colosseum and We're Going to Tear It Down

Categories: Spaced City

astrodome110413use.jpg
Sigh.
It makes sense because we treat history around these parts with the casualness a child has for a plastic dollhouse. We tear down old wooden bungalows in historic neighborhoods in favor of four stucco town homes crammed to the lot line with no yard and about as much character as the dozens of strip malls that line our freeways. Our historic preservation ordinance is a catastrophic joke that leaves virtually any structure free to be condemned and replaced by developers with any thing they damn well please.

But, having grown up in Houston and knowing what I know about the lack of sanctity for our history, I still believed (incorrectly) that the Astrodome was different, something on a grander scale that we could all see was worth not just saving, but protecting and treasuring. Clearly, I was wrong.

Of course we need only look at the dreadful state of disrepair that has befallen the Dome to understand where our priorities lie. Like a discarded toy, we let it sit, rotting for years before throwing a desperate Hail Mary at the last second. Unlike other man-made wonders of the world, the Astrodome will not be struck down by an earthquake like the Colossus of Rhodes or destroyed by fire like the Library at Alexandria.

No, the Astrodome's destruction is a conscious choice we have made. When the wrecking ball does finally come, it will be because of our own neglect, laziness and greed. Maybe Houston is like ancient Rome after all, just without the vomitories, the gladiators and now without our Colosseum.

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184 comments
jaymac1500
jaymac1500

As w/ most contruction projects, an inital estimate of 270M will most likely end up being between 400 and 500M. Is the Astrodome worth .5Billion? NO! I sure as hell don't want to pay for it.

meaculpa
meaculpa

Sadly, this piece is too little too late.  Had the Press taken this stance a few years back, and in the spirit of their usual advocacy journalism, used its rhetoric to marshal sentiment to save the Dome, it would have had my respect. Now their ode just rings hollow.  Might as well call it a requiem, because that's all it really is.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Douglas Mangum
Douglas Mangum

I agree with Jake. Come up with a viable plan that won't cost the city/county an arm and a leg (not just now but over the long haul too) and perhaps the voters will actually rally around it. Until then, your argument that people "don't get it" is not only wrong but it is also offensive too. If you really think people don't get it just because they're unwilling to spend nearly $300M on a ham-handed plan (that was just one of a long series of equally ham-handed plans) then I think perhaps you might be the one missing something.

Chris Whatley
Chris Whatley

Your comparisons are silly at best. Each of the "monuments" you've compared the Dome to in your story are tourists attractions for their respective cities. Since being transplanted to this city in 1999, all I've seen is rejection of use for this SPORTS dome by EVERY SINGLE one of the teams that reside in Houston....#1- The Astrodome wasn't good enough to keep the Oilers. #2- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the ASTROS. #3- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the Texans. #4- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the Rockets. #5- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the Comets. #6- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the Aeros. #7- The Astrodome wasn't good enough for the Dynamo. All of these organizations couldn't justify 200 MILLION reasons to restore the Dome, so why should the responsibility of the Dome's restoration fall into the hands of the common citizen? There is no influx of people booking flights to Houston for a tour of, or even a picture with, the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Thanks for reminding us that it's primary use in the last 15 years was to bring in and house mass quantities of Katrina refugees, which only increased petty crime and the murder rate in Houston!!!! That alone is reason enough for a front row seat to watch Miley Cyrus slam into it while riding a "wrecking ball". I wish I was an HP writer to counter some of these ridiculous stories you print.

Douglas Mangum
Douglas Mangum

Chris, I've read a number of rather solid seeming and apparently unbiased articles over the last few years that discussed the current and anticipated durability (or lack of same) of the astrodome and it is this I'm basing my comment on. If you have references to the contrary I'll gladly read them and, if they're more solid then what I've read prior and do not have an agenda behind them, then I'll also cheerfully agree that my original post was mostly wrong. Until then I stand by my post. And even if I've been given bum information, what I said about the difference between the Roman Colosseum and the dome still stands. The Romans built for the ages. Houston builds for profit. The latter is not a recipe for long term structures, particularly when it comes to mega-structures like the dome.

Michael Terry
Michael Terry

Its not worth it. They never should have stopped using it!

Jake Rawls
Jake Rawls

You can still develop something awesome there, and for way less money. To say I don't "get it" is patently false.

Dustin Keele
Dustin Keele

No...it's a waste of money keeping something around that has to be funded to make a profit.

Chris Alexander
Chris Alexander

On the other hand we could all rally around a plan that actually has a chance of getting development financing and serves the citizens who OWN it.

Chris Alexander
Chris Alexander

We're not talking about that plan anymore, it's dead, Jim*. Sure this is about nostalgia for some people, but for some of us it's about future potential and making this a great(er) city. We're growing so fast that we need to be adding park space, civic spaces, and high tech, high touch education campuses as fast as we can. Reliant Park is a county park. It can be the kind of park that people actually use on a daily basis, and the Astrodome can be the heart of that park. It's in the middle of a brand spanking new TIRZ, and the healthy development of that TIRZ will be best served by creating a popular destination attraction with enough fun that you can't cram it into one day. A parking lot or tragic memorial plaza would do NOTHING for the development of South Main. And that would be a shame because the area has potential. I don't see why those of us who get what the Dome can become, should passively accept decisions made by people with who don't get it. Think Big. Think outside the box. *Star Trek joke

Chris Alexander
Chris Alexander

Douglas Mangum Your comment presents a completely false picture. Where do these fact-free stories come from? Here's the TRUTH: The Dome is not falling apart. It is in disrepair due to neglect. There's a difference. The structure is robust enough to last another hundred years or more. In fact, nobody knows how long it will last, it could be here a thousand years. One of the best-built structures in Houston if not the country if not the planet. All, let me repeat, ALL of the problems with that building are environmental, utility or superficial. The roof has never leaked and the building suffered NO damage in Hurricane Ike or any other storm since its construction. And contrary to what civic leaders may have alleged, the playing field has never flooded. There is a pit 15 feet below the field that flooded. So they stopped using the pit to store Astroturf. If you have another argument against the Dome use it, but please stop repeating this nonsense about the building falling down. FAIL.

Eric Flores
Eric Flores

Tear it down already. Memories can be remembered, and the dome has served its purpose.

Douglas Mangum
Douglas Mangum

Judy, we'll only have to take it down once. If we keep it up we'll have to keep passing bond after bond decade after decade to keep maintaining it. That will, in the long run, keep taxing our children and grandchildren and ....etc.

Judy Geraci
Judy Geraci

Yes, let's take a stand to keep it even after the vote, it will cost as much to take it down

Douglas Mangum
Douglas Mangum

Lisa, nothing we (as a city or as citizens) could have done with the dome would have done more than delay the inevitable. It is hard enough to keep small, non-monolithic structures in one piece in this humid city, much less something as massive as the dome. Eventually it would have had to come down.

Jeff Hunter
Jeff Hunter

Houston will never be a Great city if they tear the Astrodome down. They will be a fly-by-night city that is forgotten once the oil is gone. Need to hold onto something and not cater to the money that is being pumped into Houston from afar.

Jake Rawls
Jake Rawls

If Yankee stadium can be torn down (where championships were won and stuff) than so can the Astrodome. Nobody gives a shit other than us that it's the first domed stadium. 270,000,000 is way too much to ask for nostalgia.

Douglas Mangum
Douglas Mangum

Comparing the astrodome to the Roman Colosseum is a mistake. The Colosseum was built with the intent that it would last for centuries or even longer. That's why it is still relatively intact nearly 2000 years on. The dome by comparison was built, as are most things in Houston, to last decades at most. That's why it is falling apart and that's why it would cost the city gobs of money just to keep it from falling down around our ears. Want to complain to somebody about losing the dome? Complain to the architects and to the community leadership from the era that decided to build something they knew would not last. Don't complain about today's leaders and todays voters who are simply making a sensible (if sad) decision based on the realities of crumbled concrete and rusting steal.

Adam Socki
Adam Socki

It's not gone yet! Let's SAVE THE DOME!

Ricardo Moya
Ricardo Moya

Tore down the Sam Houston Coliseum and nobody complained. Keep moving on with the changing times or wind up like Detroit.

Kirk Equality Childress
Kirk Equality Childress

find a developer who will sign legal agreements to preserve & develop it. give them a huge tax break for it and sell it at fire sale price. the problem wasn't that we don't want to save the dome, it was that the plan we were presented with sucked. sanity prevailed in recognizing that about the last thing Houston needs is another exhibition hall.

Tony Gutierrez
Tony Gutierrez

It is a place of heart break and disappointment over the years with the Astros and the Oilers. Tear it down.

Brian Davis
Brian Davis

Reliant Arena and Center both have been talked about being replaced. Tear them down and put the money to replace them into fixing the dome.

Lisa K Lyons
Lisa K Lyons

alrighty then...i wish our COUNTY had taken better care of it...and i am just as guilty as any other citizen to have allowed it...

H Newcomb
H Newcomb

Wasn't the city's job, was the county's.

René Espinoza
René Espinoza

No... Its something that just has to go, I agree with Lisa K Lyons

Mary Ybarra-Sorola
Mary Ybarra-Sorola

It was upsetting to see the Jeff Davis hospital imploded as well as the old Foley's downtown & Woolworths s/h been saved as well.

Lisa K Lyons
Lisa K Lyons

i wish our city had taken better care of it...

Ryan Cope
Ryan Cope

Today's humans make, take, and destroy. Like a cancer. Don't hate the game, hate the players.

Ryan Hicks
Ryan Hicks

I'm not giving my opinion on the matter, but I just wanted to add something regarding the comparison between the Astrodome and the Colosseum. The Colosseum was partially destroyed (because it was used as a fort) and all of the valuable materials it had were stripped leaving the shell that is there today. It stands merely because they didn't have the equipment to destroy it completely. Just my 2¢

Matthew Stevens
Matthew Stevens

It's amazing to me to read comments from people who voted against this. We could have invested in our city a mere $8/year to upgrade the Dome into something that would have really benefitted Houston for years to come. America's largest convention space really would have put us on the map again, allowing the city to bring in more world events.

conatonc
conatonc

I have to chuckle at your example of Astroturf being an amazing innovation, considering that the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Vikings are currently the only professional sports teams still forced to use the crappy carpet in their own aging venues. All those baseball teams that installed it in their outdoor stadiums in the 70's have gone back to grass, and the vast majority of even college football teams have upgraded to field turf. I suppose it's still used for indoor soccer (if it still exists), and I guess in college field hockey and lacrosse.

Seems like it was the best thing people could come up with at the time (especially considering that the Dome actually tried to do natural grass in its first year), on short notice and everybody just went with it for years. it's kind of amazing to me that it took until the 21st century before somebody improved on it.

curaecivem
curaecivem

@jaymac1500 Unless you owned a home worth $200K or more, you would not have to worry about it. It was a proposal for a bond to be paid by folks in a much higher tax bracket . This leaves out a good chunk of Houstonians. I still can't figure out how everyone has that $270 M figure seared into their brain but couldn't figure out who was actually being asked to pay  it, or figure out it was only an estimate.  And the "construction" project would have also meant jobs, LOTS of jobs. and when completed additional source of income, not to mention additional entertainment venue. So I don't get the fixation of an "estimate" and how that got warped into a broad, comprehensive tax hike?

jaymac1500
jaymac1500

I have a friend who works for GTE and has been in the AD numerous times for work who would disagree w/ you. He says it would scare you if you knew of the structural issues.

meaculpa
meaculpa

@Chris Alexander  Lest we forget the Dome has also survived hurricanes pretty much without a scratch. So much for structural soundness.

meaculpa
meaculpa

@Douglas Mangum Prey tell, do share with us how you come by these economic projections, fanciful as they are. Taxes into the unforeseeable future unto the umpteenth generation? Please share with us your amazing powers of  clairvoyant mathematics, fortune teller.

meaculpa
meaculpa

@Jake Rawls How much of that supposed 270,000,000 will it actually cost you? Have you figured out that or are you just throwing out big numbers for shock value?

meaculpa
meaculpa

@Douglas Mangum Again your grasp of history is slippery at best. The Colosseum as we think of it was not built in a single stage but across several, involving three separate Roman leaders,Vespasian, who started it, Titus, who inaugurated it , and  Domitian who finished it.  Its current state of deterioration is a reflection of   any number of natural and man-made disasters that have befallen it over the centuries including abandonment when it served as a quarry. By comparison, if one must make one, the Dome is tantamount to the Colosseum in that it represents both the grand aspirations of its people at the time and as a first of its kind  when built. for  its sheer breath and as an engineering marvel.

meaculpa
meaculpa

@Ryan Hicks  Your thesis that the Roman Colosseum is a hulk waiting to be razed when someone finds the economic will is so misinformed on so many levels, I won't even bother responding intelligently, because it appears you lack the ability to grasp facts historical or otherwise. If you will send your address I will happily refund your poorly spend 2 cents.

meaculpa
meaculpa

@conatonc  The Dome is the die from which all  indoor sports arenas have been cast. It was and remains the first of its kind and every enclosed sports arena since its construction in 1969 owes its conception to the Dome. That, by definition is innovation. Every breath of AC, every electronic scoreboard  you will ever view, and many other amenities you will enjoy or will ever enjoy at any indoor sports arena are directly descended from the Dome. Enjoy your chuckle at that.

curaecivem
curaecivem

@jaymac1500 Funny,  not a single actual engineer or architect has ever said it was structurally unsound. Don't you think, in the 16 years it has sat there some expert would have said so. Yet none have. Gee, wonder why?

conatonc
conatonc

@meaculpa @conatonc I'm fully aware of all the innovations of the Astrodome. But holding up astroturf as a still-amazing product in 2013 is either disingenuous or incredibly generous. Also, my initial post was incorrect, as it turns out that the Tampa Bay Rays play on fieldturf as well, leaving the Vikings as the last holdouts of the crappy old thin carpet over concrete. 

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