HOUSTON – Those fighting to keep the Astrodome from the wrecking ball and obsolescence won a major victory Friday. The Texas State Historical Commission unanimously approved a measure to have the dome designated as a state antiquities landmark.
“We thought it would never happen, but we never gave up,” said Cynthia Neely. “There were roadblocks. It cost us money. It cost us tons of time.”
For nine years, Neely and Ted Powell fought to see the dome granted landmark status.
“Why would we want to take something like that down? I just never could understand that,” said Powell.
First, the pair went through the process of having the Astrodome listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That designation paved the way to apply to the Texas Historical Commission for a state antiquities landmark. The process took three years, but the commission approved the measure Friday.
“It needs to be available to the public. It shouldn't be something that's locked up that people can't get in,” said Powell.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the new status means it is still up to the county to decide on what to ultimately do with the Astrodome, but the state now has final approval on any plans or changes.
“This just makes it easier to preserve in the long run,” said Emmett.
Emmett said this status also opens up new tax credits to help lure private investors to develop the Astrodome and makes demolition a nearly impossible option. Emmett said he is happy to see the dome endure.
“As a Texan, if you're not going to designate the Astrodome, other than the Alamo and the Capitol and some of those buildings, what are you ever going to designate?” Emmett told the Historical Commission during a recent hearing on the issue.
While there is no decision as to what the dome will ultimately become, Neely said the important thing is it will have a second life.
“Anything you can imagine can be done in that building,” said Neely. “It will find its place in the history books again as a historic building that has been revitalized and found a whole new life.”
Emmett said the $100 million plan to raise the Astrodome's floor and create 1,400 underground parking spaces is moving forward and shouldn't be affected by the dome's new status. Emmett said the 550,000 square feet of open space can then be used to hosts all manner of events.
The Astrodome is now going to be lit for Super Bowl LI.