What's next for the Astrodome?

February 26, 2009 6:02:01 PM PST
It was once called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was a place where generations of Houstonians watched baseball games or attended rodeo events. Now the Astrodome sits empty. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Most Houstonians seem to agree that they'd like to keep the Astrodome but finding the right fit has been nearly impossible. The Astrodome isn't even deemed safe enough for rodeo activities, but county leaders say an answer will be found sometime this year.

With rodeo season in full swing, the icon within Reliant Park sits silent. Once home to baseball games, livestock shows and long list of memorable events, the Astrodome today isn't even safe to occupy. So can it be saved?

"Any building that's standing empty and not being used is endangered. We don't think this will go away overnight," said Dave Bush of The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

Preservation activists are optimistic even if the latest fire marshal inspection shows some major problems including fire alarms and sprinkler systems out of service. Electrical hazards throughout the building, lack of working exit signs.

It will cost millions of dollars just to make the dome safe enough for people, but the larger question is just how long will the dome's future remain in limbo.

"I think this is the year that we're going to have to make a real decision. Are we going to go this hotel route or are we going to look for something new? We're going to have to force the issue," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

In a low key office space at the Houston Technology Center, Elise Hendrix and her Astrodome Studios partners believe they have the right solution. The group said they're a few weeks away from presenting to the county a formal plan to redevelop the dome into one of the largest movie production studios in the country.

"This could be very well be the next economic boom to Houston and Texas. We're not oil, not gas, we're not anything that depends on that," said Hendrix.

Hendrix said the studio project will be privately funded and cost less than $100 million, but the county has heard lofty Astrodome dreams before. They just hope someone will have the cash to back up their idea.

"We just got to find something to do with it," said Judge Emmett.

The county has made some repairs to the Astrodome including installing a working fire alarm system. However, county leaders do say they don't want to dump a lot of money on the dome until a decision is made on what to do with it.

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