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Committee recommends proposal to turn Astrodome into events center

Thursday, June 20, 2013
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New developments in the search for a solution to the age old question -- what do we do with the Astrodome? Harris County Sports and Convention leaders are now recommending that the Eighth Wonder of the World be saved.

The sports corporation made it very clear it does not support tearing down the dome. Instead, it's proposing something called the 'New Dome Experience.'

It would be an event center -- about 350,000 square feet and air conditioned. The idea is to tear down all the indoor seating currently in the Astrodome and raise the event floor. It's a potential venue for the Super Bowl fan experience, the NCAA Final Four, even the Grand Prix.

The proposal is estimated to take about 30 months of construction and cost about $194 million. That amount would have to be paid by Harris County voters with a bond. This comes as the county still owes $6 million on the original structure. Still, the Sports Corporation believe this makes financial sense.

"We think that the revenues generated by the new dome is going to allow us to basically break even in terms of the operating expenses," explained Edgar Colon with the Sports and Convention Corporation.

"I think it's great because I remember as a kid going to the all the events at the rodeo," Houstonian Brook McGowan said.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo stopped using the dome in 2009 when it was no longer safe.

"It does one thing immediately for all of us; it opens up a dead building," said RodeoHouston's interim president and CEO Leroy Shafer.

Shafer says he'd like to see the 40-year-old Reliant Arena, which has a leaky roof, included in the project but welcomes anything that creates usable space.

"It may allow us to bring some events inside that are outside," Shafer said.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the new version is a money magnet.

"There is no open space like this anywhere else in the world so I think it's a perfect solution," Emmett said.

Commissioners Court is scheduled to vote on the plan on June 25. It is expected to pass. Then it goes to the county budget office. If local bond money is needed, it will then go on the November ballot.

But to have it ready for the 2017 Super Bowl, Phase 1 of the project would need to start in the third quarter of this year.

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