Thoughts on the proposed Astrodome ParkI was really excited to hear Judge Emmett's proposal last week for converting the Astrodome into an indoor park (official proposal news release). Although I have touted a big idea for the Astrodome as well as some smaller ones, my longest running proposal and backup plan has always been the one with an absolute minimum of capital requirements: an indoor festival park, first articulated here in 2005 and briefed to the Judge in 2009. The benefits are huge:
- Low cost, with the ability to incrementally add new features over the years as private funding is raised (like the zoo does).
- Climate control and protect festivals, enabling Houston to have festivals year-round instead of in narrow spring and fall seasons, and with no rain-out risk. We currently have 75-100 festivals a year in Houston subject to weather risk, according to the Judge.
- Easy fit with the Rodeo and Texans' needs and contractual rights to NRG Park, including the option to just shut the park down during their days (although I doubt that would end up being the case).
- And of course, historically preserving the world's first domed stadium(!!). Did I mention the benefits were huge?
Some other thoughts:
- Could it include the proposed Houston Botanical Gardens that are looking for a home? No freeze risk would allow for even more exotic tropical plants...
- There's a proposal on HAIF for replacing the currently darkened ceiling panels with clear solar panels that would generate power to run that big air conditioner while also letting light through. Love the idea if it's technically feasible and NRG is willing to sponsor them.
- It would be cool if they could put a bike track in one of the upper level concourses. Imagine the feeling of speed biking through essentially a long circular tunnel! (well, maybe with a view to one side if seating tiers get removed)
- One of my original ideas was renovating the sky boxes to hold some of Houston's 92+ international consular offices, with each country's flag hanging in a giant circular ring around the dome, emphasizing Houston's international diversity (and reinforcing the international festivals that would be held there). It would be very cool, but the tricky part would be having them operate during the Rodeo.
- The Judge is saying parking will be free for the park, but I think they should consider keeping that revenue source on the table, considering what it will cost to run the air conditioning there. I think the right model might be paid parking with some free days every month, just like the museums do. Parking and admission fees are perfectly normal for federal and state parks, I don't know why they shouldn't be considered for a local park too. People will always have the option of riding the train there to avoid the parking charges.
- Naming: how about "Historic Astrodome Park", which everybody would just call "Dome Park" for short?