Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo still deciding best plan for Astrodome

HOUSTON – Newly elected Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she has not decided whether the current plan for the Astrodome is the best path forward for the aging icon. Meanwhile, work on the Dome is moving forward with asbestos removal.

“Still developing my thoughts,” Hidalgo said.

Harris County Commissioners’ Court unanimously approved a $105 million plan to build a ground level floor in the Dome and use the underground space to create more than 1,000 paid parking spaces.

“We're analyzing every detail to understand where that 105 is going to take us,” said Hidalgo.

While approved by her predecessors, the current plan for the Astrodome can be halted. Hidalgo said she does not have another plan in mind for the Dome.

“I really am not wedded in any particular direction. I want something that works for the community,” said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo and newly elected Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said they're concerned the current plan doesn't call for air conditioning.

“I don't know whether that makes sense or not in Houston,” said Garcia.

Ed Emmett, former Harris County judge and KPRC political analyst, said a ventilation system would help move air through the Dome.

“It doesn't make sense to air condition that huge volume of air,” Emmett said. “It's still going to be cooler in there than the outside and you're protected from the weather and in the winter it's going to be warmer in there than the outside.”

Emmett said the current plan was simply to create 9 acres of open space in the Dome that can be used by anybody, from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to the Auto Show. Emmett said the plan approved by the prior Commissioners Court does include bathrooms. He said parking spaces will also bring in extra cash the county can use to help maintain all of NRG park.

“This is something that will turn the Dome into a revenue generator,” said Emmett.

Hidalgo and Garcia still aren't convinced. They both say they need more time to study the current plan.

“I'm keeping an open mind until we get all the details out in front of us and make sure we know what we got,” said Garcia.

Asbestos abatement on the Dome is nearly complete, a necessary step before any construction is undertaken. Construction on the current plan is targeted to begin after the Rodeo.

The Astrodome is a designated state antiquities landmark, which means the Texas Historical Commission also has a say in what happens to it.