Astrodome's future: County judge proposes world's largest indoor park & rec center

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Despite proposals to tear down the Astrodome, Harris County's judge is fighting to have the stadium preserved.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett hosted a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the stadium to announce a proposal of his own.

Emmett said he wants to repurpose the Eighth Wonder of the World and turn it into the world's largest indoor park and recreation center.


"I believe it is time to put forth a new vision for the future of the Dome," Emmett said. "With that in mind, I am suggesting that we explore the concept of creating an indoor park and recreation area inside the Dome for the people of Harris County. The world's largest indoor park."

The Dome is already paid for, Emmett said, and owned by the county. Emmett did not estimate a cost because, he said, it depends on how many features are incorporated in the park's plans.

"Rather than try to convert the Dome into something it was never intended to be, I think it is time to look back to the original vision of Judge Hofheinz," Emmett said. "That vision was to provide a place for traditional outdoor activities in a climate-controlled space. A space like none other in the world."

According to Emmett, some of the potential features include:

  • The park would be open to the public except when in use by tenants like the Houston Rodeo or Offshore Technology Conference
  • A large, open green space for festivals and other community gatherings
  • Sports facilities such as hike and bike trails, as well as archery ranges and horseshoe pits
  • A pavilion for music and other events
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility

The judge tasked the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation with gathering input from architects, engineers and urban planners to turn concepts into reality. The HCSCC manages the Dome for the county.

"My hope is to have some more developed concept within the next three months," said Edgardo Colon, with the HCSCC.

One person who is particularly happy with this idea is Dene Hofheinz. She is the daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz, whose vision got the Astrodome built. She has continued to fight against the Dome being demolished.

"It's worth the fight, it is worth the fight. This I'm feeling really comfortable about because it just makes complete sense to me," said Dene Hofheinz.

The Texas Historical Commission is expected to vote on whether the Dome should become an antiquities landmark in October. After that vote happens, the Historical Commission also has to sign off on this proposal before it can go forward.

Voters turned down a ballot measure last November to spend taxpayer money to turn the Astrodome into a convention and exposition center.

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo released a statement Tuesday afternoon that read, "Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials have received only a preliminary conceptual briefing on a proposal for repurposing the NRG Astrodome into an air conditioned indoor park.   The briefing contained no drawings, renderings or detailed information. Show officials look forward to evaluating the proposal in depth when they are presented with a defined plan that exhibits program space, planned vehicle and pedestrian ingress and egress, and operational and economic feasibility.  Until such detail is presented and until such analysis is completed, Show officials will have no further comment on this proposal."

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