September 2014  

Judge Emmett Proposes Turning
Astrodome into World’s Largest Indoor Park

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett recently announced a proposal to convert the Harris County Domed Stadium – known worldwide as The Astrodome – into the world’s largest indoor park and recreation center. Emmett unveiled his proposal from the floor of the Dome, which he described as the realization of Judge Roy Hofheinz’s “vision of the future.”

“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.”

Last November, a bond proposal that would have funded the conversion of the Dome into a multipurpose event center failed, and since that time, Harris County has been looking for the right answer.

“First, the decision must be in the best interest of the owners, the taxpayers of Harris County. And second, the decision must be part of a plan to make the entire NRG complex a better venue for events and recreation,” Emmett said.

Emmett has been exploring the indoor park concept with local

officials, stakeholders and interested parties for the past couple of months, seeking input and suggestions and refining the idea. While the details of the concept are still being refined, Emmett suggested leaving it open to the public except when in use by tenants like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Offshore Technology Conference or others. He also recommended including a large, open green space that would be perfect for festivals and other community gatherings. Emmett also proposed having a pavilion for music and other events and sporting facilities from archery ranges to hiking and biking trails.

“It has been suggested that I wait until there is a fully detailed plan before discussing this concept,” Emmett said. “However, I believe it is important to lay out the vision and, like Judge Hofheinz, call upon the experts. I have discussed the park concept with my colleagues on Commissioners Court, who happen to build and maintain outstanding parks.”

Emmett has asked the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to work with the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation to let them know of helpful design features that could best support their needs. He also has met with the Houston Texans to make sure they understand the county’s commitment to maintaining a first-class complex.

Emmett also took the opportunity to correct common misconceptions about the Dome. Some of the key facts are:

The Astrodome is owned by Harris County.

It is completely paid for, and the annual cost of maintaining it is approximately $166,000.

When voters rejected the bond proposal last November, it was NOT an affirmative vote to demolish the Dome.

The Dome is structurally sound.

Because an application to designate the Astrodome as a State Antiquities Landmark is pending, any plan must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission.

The Astrodome is part of an overall complex that needs constant attention and updating.

“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 Hofeinz,” 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.”