Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
As yet another round of plans are released for the 40-year-old landmark, the Astrodome, I can't help but wonder if it's time to implode the dome. The Houston Chronicle reports that the latest proposal would transform the former Eighth Wonder of the World into a 1,200-room convention hotel with a winding indoor waterway. It also calls for trees, walkways and mill wheels. The project even has a theme, the Best of Texas, which would feature buildings that evoked the state's past.
Developing the Astrodome into something useful is without argument desirable. After all, it costs Harris County about $1.5 million annually just to host a few events there. But the Astrodome is located in a boring part of the city with only the Six Flags Astroworld and Reliant Stadium--home to the NFL Houston Texans--to offer for itself. An NFL season is comprised of 8 home games, and the theme park is open for only three months in the summer.
Who exactly would this monstrosity attract? Not a lot of businessmen. Downtown Houston is 10 miles north. Instead, the Astrodome Hotel will attract a few in-state tourists who between the theme park and their hotel rooms will wander aimlessly around replicas of the Alamo, state Capitol and a historic Texas courthouse before the place goes crashing into bankruptcy.
A columnist for the Chronicle argued it would spell certain doom for the George R. Brown convention center and downtown hotels. But I don't see it. Would you host your conference miles away from any city attractions or good restaurants? The Astrodome is a landmark, and no one wants to see it demolished. Least of all me: I've been a faithful Houston Astros baseball fan for over 10 years. But if the county can't come up with something better than a convention hotel, it's time to implode the dome.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.