Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
A new plan to replace the Astrodome with an Astrodome Hall of Fame calls into question whether anyone actually wants to demolish the Astrodome.
The Eighth Wonder of the World could get a little more wondrous, if Houston carries out a scheme to replace the Astrodome with... a tiny Astrodome.
Under a new $66 million plan devised by Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Houston Texans, the bones of the world-famous Astrodome would be preserved. The rest of the structure would be demolished to make way for an urban park modeled after Discovery Green, a vibrant green-space that opened in downtown Houston in 2008. At the center of the new park would be... a tiny Astrodome.
Houstonians are clearly having a hard time letting go of the stadium, an historic marvel that opened in 1965 and the site of some of the city's best memories. In November, Harris County residents rejected a proposal for preserving the Astrodome and converting it into a convention center—a proposal that many observers expected to pass. Eight months later, as if the city might be having second thoughts, Houston is no closer to demolishing the world's first and greatest domed stadium.
This new proposal, featuring a design by the Houston office of global architecture firm Gensler, puts the city one step closer to move forward with the Astrodome. Or a step backward, depending on how you look at it, seeing as the plans call for replacing it with... a tiny Astrodome.
The ribs of the (original) stadium would be preserved, forming a sort of skeletal Stonehenge that would serve as an outline for new public programming, from concerts to festivals. The plan's boosters say that it would improve circulation to and from Reliant Stadium, home to Houston's rodeo and NFL squad.
At the center of the new park—in the tiny Astrodome—would be an Astrodome Hall of Fame, a structure devoted to and shaped like the stadium it would be replacing.
All things considered, any plan to replace the Astrodome will need to pay tribute to the Astrodome in some way. In the context of an urban park, preserving the skeleton of the stadium isn't a bad idea, although there is some irony in turning a dome into a multi-purpose pavilion with no lid.
Yet the fact that the city is even entertaining this idea—building a tiny Astrodome to replace the Astrodome!—just goes to show that the city is far from settled over what to do with the stadium.
"Demolition, contrary to popular belief, does not appear imminent," writes Mark Lamster of The Dallas Morning News. "That would be a costly undertaking in itself—anywhere from $5 million to $80 million, depending on whom you ask—and there is no consensus for such a drastic measure among the five commissioners who run Harris County."
Judge Ed Emmett, the highest elected official in Harris County and a proponent of preserving the (entire) Astrodome, has already written off the new scheme. "It's a silly plan," he told the Houston Chronicle. "If you're going to tear it down, just tear it down. I mean, is anybody going to care this is where Harmon Killebrew hit a home run?"