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Commissioners approve first phase of $105M Astrodome project

HOUSTON – Harris County commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $10.5 million for the first phase of a $105-million project aimed at transforming the Astrodome into a multipurpose facility.

Tuesday's vote kicked off the design phase of the project, which will raise the Astrodome floor to provide two levels of parking and add 1,400 parking spaces to the venue.

A maximum of $35 million will be spent from the general fund to pay for the overall plan. The remaining $70 million will come from hotel occupancy tax and parking revenue.

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"The Astrodome's days of sitting idle and abandoned are over," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "Instead, Harris County's most recognized building will again be proud and useful -- as host to thousands of area residents attending a variety of business and community events. Hundreds of people worked very hard to see that happen, and I'm proud that this day has finally arrived."

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The project is getting mixed reviews.

"The parking for NRG is so hectic right now, I feel that it will be productive," Shelley Schoberg said.

"I'm not in favor of raising the floor, but I am in favor of keeping the Astrodome. Very much so. It's an icon," Graham Johnston said. 

Commissioners will have to get permission from the Texas Historical Commission before moving forward with the project. They plan to do that sometime next month. 

The project is expected to take three to six years to complete.

When it opened in 1965, the Harris County Domed Stadium was the first of its kind, and was dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

The stadium hosted the Astros from 1965 to 1997 and the Oilers from 1968 to 1997. It was condemned in 2009.

Voters rejected a plan in 2013 that would have transformed the venue into a convention center.