The Astrodome: From Elvis to Evel Knievel...to Green Space?

Categories: Spaced City

The Astrodome is a historic building. The first of its kind. It helped shape the games of football, baseball and basketball. Historic events occurred inside, like the UH/UCLA basketball game that helped show the NCAA what was truly possible with college basketball. It's hard to imagine an NCAA men's basketball title game now being held in anything but a domed stadium. Nolan Ryan threw a no-hitter inside the place. Elvis and the Jackson 5 performed concerts inside the Dome. It hosted political conventions, religious events and Evel Knievel.

But the Rodeo and the Texans had no further use for the place. Bud Adams promised a Super Bowl if the scoreboard was torn out -- there was no Super Bowl and the Oilers ended up leaving. Drayton McLane wanted his own pleasure palace. City and county leaders did nothing but trash and belittle the place so that other ballparks and stadiums could be built to replace it.

Don't blame the voters for not approving the use of taxpayer funds for a stupid plan that would've gutted the place. Blame those officials who put that idiotic plan up for a vote without pushing for realistic options. Blame the Rodeo and the Texans for vetoing anything that might make them share their valuable parking spaces. Blame Bud Adams, blame Drayton McLane.

The Dome has been doomed to death for a long time now. Maybe now it can be actually put out of its agony.


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23 comments
Itcanbesaved.
Itcanbesaved.

John: You're on the right track, but you've got the wrong enemy, almost. The Texans and HLSR do not have veto power; they have contracts, specifically their agreements from 2001 which have given them monopolistic tenant power over the Dome ever since and they want it gone. Moreover, you have to ask: who agreed to their terms and why? There are many players and events which have ensnared the Dome in a tangled web of politics and greed. But it leaves a bread crumb which it can be followed with a little time and effort. With any luck, in a few weeks, the Dome will be relived of all that by coming under the protection of the Texas Historical Commission, where those who have tried, for years to raze it using  countless misinformation tactics  will finally be put asunder.

GeorgeStraitFan
GeorgeStraitFan

Some facts that might not be well-known:


1. When the Rodeo moved into Reliant Stadium, it contended its lease still gave it the right to use the Dome, and that the county had to keep the Dome in good condition.  The county disagreed and said the lease on Reliant Stadium cancelled out the lease on the Dome.  The Rodeo wanted to continue to use the Dome; it was the county that shut the Rodeo out of the Dome and let it rot.  Don't blame the Rodeo for the Dome's rotting, because it wanted to use the Dome and have it kept up but the county wouldn't let that happen.  Looking back, the county would have been wise to acquiesce to the Rodeo's position, but it didn't and now we have a condemned building.


2. Tilman Fertitta is in the unique position of being a native Houstonian who grew up with the Dome; is perhaps the best owner/operator of amusement and dining facilities in the country; has access to as much financing as he could possibly use; and is also in a very high position at the Rodeo.  If there was any way possible to make money at the Dome, Tilman would have figured it out.  That he hasn't tells me there just is no way to renovate the Dome and make money with it.  I am 100% positive he'd do it even if all he would do is break even.  But it just can't be done.


3. One reason it can't be done is there isn't enough revenue to go around.  The Texans and the Rodeo cannot allow the Dome to operate during their events unless they are getting a cut of the revenue.  The reason is that very few new customers are going to come on the grounds just to see the Dome.  A lot of the people that go into the Dome are going to be people that were coming to the Texans game or the Rodeo anyway.  So if those people spend their money in the Dome, instead of in NRG Stadium or NRG Center, the Texans/Rodeo lose that revenue.  And it would be a LOT of revenue.  It might cost the Texans the ability to sign a Pro Bowler, or it could cost the Rodeo the ability to award 100 scholarships.  Therefore, the Texans/Rodeo HAVE to be partners.  But if they are, then there's not enough revenue for the private operators to make any money.


4. We didn't strike when the iron was hot.  A study was commissioned in 2001 about what to do with the Dome.  The answer?  Turn it into non-agricultural exhibit space, with shopping in the Suites section, and a hotel in the Skybox section.  It would have had a skyway to link it to Reliant Center.  It could have been done for a fraction of the costs thrown about today, but we were all giddy about our new facilities and didn't want to work on the Dome.  Plus, the county had run out of money to finish Reliant Stadium and the Rodeo had to lend it some funds, so maybe a bond issue would have been defeated anyway.


i wish there was a solution that is viable to keep the Dome, but I am afraid there isn't one.

cgalexander2000
cgalexander2000

Judge Emmett is correct when he says the proposal by the Rodeo and Texans is a non-story. The Astrodome is not about to be demolished. The building is under state protection as we speak, and that protection will be made permanent two weeks from tomorrow, when the Astrodome is designated a State Antiquities Landmark. Then, as now, any action to demolish or even alter the building will require a permit from the Texas Historical Commission, and the probability of a demolition permit being issued is effectively zero. Any public official who violates the rules already in place will be in violation of state law, subject to penalties and civil action. For the author to have written this story, and for the Houston Press to have published it, while making no mention of the preservation process or its imminent outcome, is an abandonment of journalistic responsibility. Instead of becoming the latest of perpetuate misinformation about the Dome's status and prospects, you should be informing Houstonians of the facts.


This latest proposal by the Texans and Rodeo has been in the works for at least a year, possibly two years (Good luck getting a straight answer on the actual start date, though a real publication would at least try). When they started down this road, the process leading to protection had not begun, so the R & T can be forgiven for starting it. But the leadership of those organizations have known about impending protected status for a while now, so the least embarrassing thing they could have done would be to bury it and forget it. 


Let's not forget that the Astrodome is owned by the citizens of Harris County, not by the Texans or the Rodeo. Those organizations are important to Harris County, and they do have contracts that restrict what can be done on the property, but they are tenants. 

nebeltex
nebeltex

They should have sold it to Tilman Fertitta.....

nebeltex
nebeltex

Sadly, there is now at least one generation that has no memories of the 'dome. From the 70's (Evel Knievel, Vida Blue) to the 80's (Charlie Pride, Charlie Daniels Band, Bluebonnet Bowl) to the 90's (Last "Opening day"), the dome has a lot of history to lose.

adan
adan

It is sad to see it go. My dad took me to see the Oliers play the Cowboys there for my 10th birthday. It is part of Houston but it is time to let go. This should not surprise anyone remember AstroWorld? Greed is the root of all evil

Jacob Bocanegra
Jacob Bocanegra

y not bring it up to code and charge ppl a premium to tailgate inside (away from the riff raff) instead of making them tailgate in the hot ass sun?

Jesse Santillano
Jesse Santillano

Cheaper than the other possibilities put forward so far so I say go for it!

Clint Mendonça
Clint Mendonça

Green space needs a hell of a lot of upkeep to not become "brown space". Regular sprinkler runs and gardening isn't going to be cheap. With something that can be rented out, you can at least recoup some of the renovation cost. Who is going to rent an oversized island park in a concrete sea?

Kristina Michel
Kristina Michel

What's funny in all of this is that Ed Emmett and Harris County officials have spent the last decade or so kowtowing to the Texans and HSLR's power to veto anybody with even a halfway decent plan to re-purpose the stadium. But now, all of a sudden, when the two powers who - let's face it - are the only real ones that have any real say in what's to be done with the Dome finally put forth their own plan, Emmett goes running to any local publication/TV station that'll listen saying, "Oh no. We're not gonna do that. Any plan that involves demolishing it is a non-starter." Emmett and his lackeys need to go crawl away in a bureaucratic hole somewhere and shut up. He can blame the voters that shot down that plan to turn the Dome into a glorified convention center for the Dome's demise all he wants. But anybody who's been paying attention knows that if Emmett and his lackeys want to find the real harbingers of doom for the Dome, all they must do is look in the mirror.

Josh Webster
Josh Webster

He's absolutely right. The plan that was put up for a vote was a straw man proposition from the start.

Mark H. Rogers
Mark H. Rogers

Its very obvious, house all of our new illegal immigrants here.......

Staci Marks
Staci Marks

I thought it was one.with the earth again

Scott Cattanach
Scott Cattanach

Sure. Cheaper than another stadium boondoggle from the govt.

Javier Gomez
Javier Gomez

How about a Thunderdome? "Two men enter one man leaves....."

cgalexander2000
cgalexander2000

@GeorgeStraitFan You are wrong on almost every point. I don't know if your general claim in item #1 is true, but I've never heard of such a thing, and considering how far off base you are on the other items, I think you may just be making up what you say in #1. One thing that is definitely not true is that the Dome is rotting. Fabrics rot. Wood rots. Steel and concrete and glass and Lucite skylights do not rot. Ask the people who designed and built it, and the people who inspect it, and they will tell you that structurally this is probably the toughest building ever built in Harris County. 


On #2, you'll get argument from a lot of people about Fertitta being the best owner-operator of entertainment and dining facilities in the country. And this argument that keeps coming up that if it could be done it would have been done ignores a lot of political reality.


On #3, the relatively simple solution is to cut Rodeo and Texans in on that revenue. Think of it this way: All those food and clothing, jewelry and automobile vendors that now fill Reliant Arena and the grounds during Rodeo are short term tenants who pay rent to Rodeo. So for the Dome all they will have to do is write contracts so that during Rodeo any permanent Dome tenants are considered for lease-contract purposes to be tenants of Rodeo. There are various existing, non-exotic leasehold models that can make that possible, but one simple concept can be stated as: retail/restaurant/attraction tenants in the Dome pay their leases to HCSCC (NRG Park), HCSCC passes all or part of that revenue through to Rodeo and Texans. There is already a Starbucks in Reliant Center whose lease is set up on the same model.


Anyway, as I explain in my comment from yesterday, the Astrodome is under state protection, temporary but legally binding now and permanent in a couple of weeks. No attempt by any party to spread disinformation  can change that reality.



nebeltex
nebeltex

Insurance rates, and the cost to A/C for a relative few would make that proposal cost-prohibitive.

h_e_x
h_e_x

Finally, a plan the city can get behind. Hell of a lot better than what the officials are proposing.

GeorgeStraitFan
GeorgeStraitFan

@cgalexander2000 I can guarantee you I am 100% right on point #1.  Ask Mike Surface - he was the guy that denied the Rodeo use of the Dome.  And of course I didn't mean steel and concrete rotted, but everything else in there has.


I get that Tilman Fertitta is a lightning rod but love him or hate him, you cannot deny that he's built a $2 billion net worth in entertainment and dining.  He's no doubt an expert, and if he can't figure out a way to make money with the Dome, I doubt anyone can.  If someone could, don't you think they'd have come forward with a viable plan?  It's been 12 years now.


Yes, Dome revenue would have to be split.  I'm sure that's not a new concept to anyone that's tried to make a go of the Dome.  But neither the Texans nor the Rodeo has blessed ANY development plan, so it's pretty obvious that revenue sharing percentages haven't been agreed upon.  I believe that the percentage of revenue the Texans/Rodeo would need to offset the loss of revenue in the stadium/center is too high for potential Dome developers.


You didn't address point 4 so I assume you accept it but if you don't, ask Hermes Reed Architects, the architectural firm that designed NRG Center.  I forget the name of the lead architect, but I'm sure they can confirm what I've posted.


I've given you ways to check out what I've said so before you go claiming disinformation, how about you go see if my sources confirm what I've said?

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