Once known as “the eighth wonder of the world,” the Astrodome in Houston, Tex., is about to begin a second life as a convention facility. The former home of the Houston Oilers football team and the Astros baseball team, the first stadium in the U.S. to use AstroTurf has been vacant for 19 years.
This month, Harris County officials gave final approval for a $105 million redevelopment of the Astrodome into a convention and event center.
The plan requires significant structural renovation. The first phase is expected to make the existing building safe and could take up to 18 months. After that, the plan calls for the playing surface of the dome, which is 25 feet below street level, to be raised two stories to accommodate 1,400 underground parking spaces. The new ground level will feature an eight-acre, column-free exhibit hall, and an additional story will be created above this to offer 500,000 square feet of meeting space.
The dome is an iconic part of the Houston landscape, standing 18 stories high and 710 feet in diameter. Financing will come from property and hotel occupancy taxes, and parking revenue.
One client is already waiting to book the space. Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is eager to move into the new development. He says that the show’s current home in the nearby NRG Stadium can only accommodate 300 exhibitors and has a waiting list for 200 more.
The building, opened in 1965, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.