State Historical Commission Designates Astrodome a Landmark

Leah Binkovitz | @leahbink | January 27, 2017

Photo by Ryan Holeywell.

It’s official: the Texas Historical Commission voted Friday morning to designate the Astrodome a state landmark, meaning the “the first fully enclosed, domed, multipurpose sports stadium in the U.S.” cannot be “removed, altered, damaged, salvaged, or excavated” without approval from the state commission, according to the press release.

Ever since the Houston Astros baseball team left the stadium following the 1999 season, the county has been unable to answer the question of what it should do with the Astrodome or how any renovation should be funded. Various fanciful concepts have emerged — a giant movie studio, an indoor amusement park, a casino — but crucially, they never came with private funding.

The designation is a win for preservationists who have been working to save and repurpose the structure, which was declared unusable in 2009.

In 2013, Harris County voters rejected a $217 million bond that would have transformed the Dome into an event space, the same year the Dome ended up on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of most endangered historic places in the country. Harris County Ed Emmett, at the time, had threatened that a “no” vote would result in demolition. But ultimately he walked back that threat and has continued to push for ways to repurpose the facility.

In September 2016, Harris County officials voted to approve $10.5 million to move forward with plans to raise the floor of the Astrodome and install 1,400 indoor parking spaces beneath it. The funding would be spend on the initial design phase of the project, which aims to transform the building into a multi-purpose venue that could be used for festivals and other events. The Houston Chronicle reports that the proposed renovation would ultimately cost about $105 million.

The news of the historic designation comes a little more than a week before the city will host the 51st Super Bowl next door at NRG Stadium.

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