Future Of The Dome Finally Has Some Direction

Reliant Stadium seen through the Astrodome.
Now that we know Houston will host the Super Bowl in 2017, there's another big mystery right next door, the fate of the empty astrodome. There's a much clearer process to determine that now than there was a year ago.

It's pretty clear that something needs to be done with the Astrodome, which has been mostly empty since the Astros left for Minute Maid Park 13 years ago. What hasn't been clear all this time is what exactly to do with it. There have been dozens of ideas over the years, but none of them have stuck, mostly because of funding issues.

Next month, there will finally be some action. There's a June 10th deadline for private interests to submit ideas that have viable funding sources.

This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

"If there's no private interest that has a reasonable financial backing, then on June 25th, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation is to present their best idea of public use of the Dome to Harris County Commissioners Court and our capital improvements planning session. From that point, it will be in the hands of County Commissioners Court." 

Emmett says the Astrodome saga will likely end at the ballot box, with local voters ultimately deciding what to do with an aging Houston icon. 

"It's very likely to require a bond election. That would be  presented to the voters, but I'm told we're not allowed to put options, so it will be a real clear, this is the best idea of what to do with the Dome. If you're not agreeable to this, then the Dome comes down. And all of that will be occurring in the next year or two years."

One more immediate question is how the Astrodome's future will affect the Super Bowl in 2017. Ric Campo led Houston's successful Super Bowl bid and says Dome or no Dome, Super Bowl 51 will be just fine.

"We had a Super Bowl in 2004 and it was good then too. It's one of those kind of issues that's out there, but I think the County and the Sports Corporation are doing a great job vetting the issues and will ultimately come up with a reasonable, rational decision like they always do."  

The NFL has also said that the Dome's future wasn't a determining factor in Houston hosting Super Bowl LI. The Dome, which opened in 1965, still costs Harris County several million dollars a year to maintain.