Like many of Houston's older structures that sit vacant while their owners debate what should be done with them, the Astrodome was declared unfit for occupancy in 2009. In 2013, the National Trust named the Astrodome to its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the same year that Houston voters rejected a referendum that would have used public funds to renovate the stadium.
At the time, it seemed all but sure that this was the beginning of the end for what had once been declared the Eight Wonder of the World. Yet there was still a glimmer of hope: In 2014, the National Park Service added the Astrodome to the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly afterward, Harris County residents Ted Powell and Cynthia Neely lobbied to go one step further in hopes of securing a future for the Dome, seeking landmark status from the Texas Historical Commission.
Today, that status was granted. In a mid-morning Tweet, the Commission wrote:
This morning, the Texas Historical Commission voted to designate the Houston Astrodome a State Antiquities Landmark. More details to come.
While there's no word yet on what this might mean for the various proposals that have been bandied about over the years, which include everything from turning the Astrodome into a water park, casino, indoor ski slope and cycling track, what it does mean is that the Dome isn't going anywhere any time soon.
The yearly cost of maintaining the Astrodome, which currently falls to its owner, Harris County, is not as expensive as some have suggested: only $166,000 per year. Harris County Judge Ed Emmet, who provided the figure, has his own vision for the Astrodome's future, which we could definitely get behind:
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. That vision was to provide a place for traditional outdoor activities in a climate‐controlled space. A space like NONE other in the world. 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.
Considering the staggering success of other recently-added civic green spaces like Buffalo Bayou Park and Discovery Green, we say let's do it.