Astrodome Alterations Floated

Officials in Harris County, Texas, are weighing three scenarios for the aging Houston Astrodome that range from demolition to a $1.35 billion total makeover.

But no matter which plan is approved, taxpayers are being asked to foot most of the bill.

Willie Loston, executive director of the county’s Sports and Convention Corporation, told the Houston Chronicle that pursuing the most expensive plan could cost taxpayers $900 million.

“The county does not have the financial resources for any of this,” he said.

Still, in exchange for the big-ticket investment, Houston would receive what the Sports and Convention Corporation has called the “Astrodome Renaissance.”

The plan would convert the Astrodome into a convention and science center that would include space travel and deep-sea exhibits, an alternative energy center and a movie studio, the Chronicle reported.

A slightly more economical plan – dubbed the “Astrodome Multipurpose” – would gut the venue and include the science and technology center, a planetarium and solar panels on the roof for $1.13 billion.

The Reliant Park Plaza plan would raze the venue, replace the nearby 8,000-capacity Reliant Arena and construct a privately funded hotel for $873 million, the paper said.

The county still owes about $40 million on the structure, reportedly spending more than $4 million annually on debt, interest, utilities and maintenance. Loston has urged the county and the public to weigh in on a plan soon as the Astrodome is nearing the end of its life span.

Still, some local officials are calling for more time and consideration into the matter.

“I’m not for any of these proposals at this time, because the financial situation at the present time doesn’t lend itself to any of those,” Commissioner Steve Radack told the Chronicle. “We ought to continue to wait and try to find somebody in the private sector who cares to invest in that property.”