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Landmark’s future depends on a dome full of money

An aerial photo taken Aug. 2, 2002, shows the landmark Houston Astrodome (foreground) and Reliant Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans football team. County officials and complex operators have unveiled three possible plans for the future of the Astrodome.  (AP File Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley Pool)

An aerial photo taken Aug. 2, 2002, shows the landmark Houston Astrodome (foreground) and Reliant Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans football team. County officials and complex operators have unveiled three possible plans for the future of the Astrodome. (AP File Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley Pool)

By Tom Fetters

Given the choice between preserving an aging building or leveling it and starting over, I’ll almost always choose the former. So I give credit to the folks in Houston for dreaming up some ways to keep the Astrodome standing.

The Astrodome certainly is a landmark. It opened 45 years ago –- the country’s first domed, air-conditioned, multiuse stadium was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” — and for years was the home of sports teams including baseball’s Houston Astros and football’s Houston Oilers. In latter years, it’s hosted Evel Knievel and Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid the dreams put forth this week for the Astrodome’s future have very little chance of becoming reality.

Two of the three plans would allow the stadium to survive: One, a $1.35 billion proposal, includes transforming the structure into a science center, conference center, planetarium and county and city museum. The second, a $1.13 billion plan, would turn it into a science and technology center and a storage place.

The problem with these plans, understandably, is money. All three proposals — even the third option, an $873 million plan to raze the stadium and put up a plaza –- rely on the county’s taxpayers agreeing to pay at least a third of the cost. And even if the planners can come up with the rest of the renovation money, I don’t see voters choosing to raise their taxes to help pay the rest.

So while I applaud the planners for their preservation/renovation efforts, I think they need to dream up a more realistic way of paying for the project.

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Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He never attended a game at the Astrodome, but plenty at the Silverdome.

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