When it was constructed in 1965, the Astrodome was nicknamed, "The Eighth Wonder of the World." At the time, the Astrodome was the world's first multi-purpose domed stadium. Standing 208 feet tall, and with a roof-span of 642 feet, the 400,000 square foot stadium is still one of the most influential pieces of American architecture. That fact could soon be erased, though, if Houston voters decide to not support Proposition 2.
Proposition 2, if passed, would allocate $217 million toward the renovation of the Astrodome. However, the newly renovated stadium would not hold future games for the Houston Astros, Houston Texans, or any other sports teams; instead, the Astrodome would become an event center and exhibition space. The floor would be raised to ground-level, and a green space would also be created outside the stadium.
While $217 million seems like a steep figure to turn a dilapidated stadium into an event space, one has to consider the alternative. As it currently stands, the city of Houston spends $2-3 million per year to simply keep the structure standing as a storage-space. Considering the Astrodome has been out of commission since 2009, that means at least $8 million has been spent to keep the structure from falling. Costs of demolishing the stadium aren't any cheaper. In fact, a study created in 2010 stated that it would cost approximately $78 million total to demolish the dome, which is greater than 1/3 of the cost to renovate the stadium.
The cheapest estimate to demolish the stadium currently stands at $29 million - an unlikely figure considering the 2010 study allocated $20 million alone for asbestos removal and plaza construction following the demolition. Whatever the costs, Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein points out that the money has to come from somewhere: "That's money that the county's going to have to find. It might have some short term borrowing, it may be able to take it out of reserve funds. But it's money that the county would have spent on something else, hopefully something else that we all wanted. What do you get for tearing down the Astrodome for 30-million dollars? A pile of rubble."
"The New Dome Experience," if passed, would take 2.5 years to complete, meaning it would be done just in time for the 2017 Super Bowl planned for the Houston Texan's Reliant Stadium. Based on America's obsession with the Super Bowl, perhaps Houston could just sell advertisement space on the side of the Astrodome to mitigate the costs? We'll find out soon, as Houston voters make the fateful decision at the polls today.
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