Dome Into A Parking Lot Idea Isn't Gaining Much Traction

Ariel shot of Reliant park area. [NASA Earth Observatory/October 5, 2010]
As the debate continues over what to do with the empty Astrodome, for some, the nearly 14-acre site looks like a great place to build a parking lot. Believe it or not, Reliant Park already has much more on-site parking than virtually every big stadium complex in America.
Right now, there are about 26,000 parking spaces in the Reliant Park complex, wrapped around both stadiums
and spread over 350 acres. 
 
"I will tell you, I think I have more parking than any stadium in the country." 
 
Mark Miller runs Reliant Park and says for most big events, there's plenty of parking. To compare, the Louisiana Superdome in downtown New Orleans has about 5,000 parking spaces.
 
Miller says knocking down the Astrodome would probably create between 1,500 and 2,000 new parking spots.  
 
"That space to me is so much better as event space, as plaza space, as something that you can actually use to 
increase the event activity out here and enhance the event activity that goes on here other than parking. It just seems like a waste of space to make it a parking lot."
 
In fact, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says there have been no official discussions about turning the Dome into
a parking lot, despite a public perception to the contrary. 
 
"We've never had any formal discussion about the parking in terms of do we need more. We've had discussions relative to does it operate smoothly and those types of things. Relative to the Dome, that conversation has not been had."
 
The Houston Texans have expressed interest in adding premium parking for ticket holders on the east side of 
Reliant Stadium, but say they're waiting for a Dome plan just like everyone else. One group that could use some 
extra parking is the Livestock Show and Rodeo. 
 
"Not in your wildest imagination will there ever be enough parking."  
 
Leroy Shafer is the interim president and CEO has been with the organization for more than 40 years. He says even if the Dome were turned into a parking lot, it wouldn't help the overall parking situation much.  
 
"If there's space made available where the Astrodome is, the Rodeo will never, ever park a car there. That's the
very middle of our campus. That's the very middle of our presentation. We're going to move operations into
there, outdoor exhibits, maybe even some of the carnival will come into that area. Will that open up parking space 
out on the perimeter? It's possible." 
 
Shafer says the Livestock Show and Rodeo has to turn to overflow parking every year, including the old Astroworld property, lots along 288 and even borrowed parking in the Texas Medical Center. Shafer just wants some sort of plan for the Dome.  
 
"Whatever we do there, let's do something. Right now it's dead space. That's 13.8 acres of land right in the middle of
our campus that has not been able to be used since they closed it in 2009. And by the way, when it was open, the
Rodeo was using it. We were using it every day and every night."
 
Next Monday is the deadline for private interests to submit plans for the Dome, with viable funding sources. On June 25th, Harris County Commissioners will hear about plans that could include public funding.