Houston Astrodome Facing Demolition After Texas Voters Reject Referendum

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2013

29 Aug 1996: General view of the Houston Astrodome during a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros in Houston, Texas. The Cubs won the game 4-3.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Houston's Astrodome will forever be remembered as one of the most revolutionary venues in the history of sports, but it may soon be little more than a memory, as 53 percent of Texas voters rejected a referendum to restore the iconic stadium on Tuesday, according to The Dallas Morning News via the Associated Press.

Had the voters approved the referendum, $217 million in bonds would have been used to convert the now-vacant Astrodome into a convention center. After the election, however, it seems inevitable that the former "Eighth Wonder of the World" is destined for demolition.

"We can't allow the once-proud Astrodome to sit like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot. This was the best effort (to revamp the stadium), and voters have turned it down," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

Per the AP report, several groups attempted to get Houston voters behind the preservation effort. This included speeches at community meetings as well as a truck called the "Dome Mobile" driving across Houston, but it was to no avail.

"Because it sat vacant for many years, there's been a lack of passion for it," said Beth Wiedower, senior field officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the groups backing the plan.

Wiedower said efforts to promote the referendum had reinvigorated that passion.

"But it just wasn't enough," she said.

According to the report, it has been estimated that demolishing the Astrodome will cost anywhere from $29 million to $78 million, which is significantly less than the proposed renovation would have cost.

While it can certainly be argued that voting down the referendum was the best financial decision for the city, it is somewhat surprising considering how big of a role the Astrodome played in the city's history.

Not only did the venue house Major League Baseball's Houston Astros from 1965 through 1999 and the NFL's Houston Oilers from 1968 until they moved to Tennessee in 1997, but it also played host to a number of iconic events. Perhaps chief among them was the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match that saw Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in 1973.

The facility was the world's first multipurpose domed stadium.  No events have been held in it since 2009.  Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 found shelter in the Astrodome.

Despite the rejection of the referendum, it is clear that the people of Houston still have sentimental feelings for the Astrodome. Supporters made Facebook pages and Twitter movements to support the referendum to save the dome.  

An auction of memorabilia from the facility was held this past weekend in anticipation of either a renovation of demolition, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In addition to stadium seats, pieces of the dome's famous AstroTurf were sold as well, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

If this is the end of the line for the Astrodome, at least many nostalgic Houston sports fans will always be able to remember the great times they had there. It was once a state-of-the-art facility, but as is the case with pretty much everything, times changed, and the Astrodome has become a victim of advancement.


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