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It’s gonna cost an arm and a leg to demolish the Astrodome

Apr 17, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

Image (1) Astrodome.jpg for post 6763

The Houston Astrodome has sat empty for years and has been without a professional sports team in it for a decade. But it still stands, right next door to Reliant Stadium, legally unfit for habitation. It has to be demolished, right?

Sure, bit it’s gonna cost a king’s ransom to do it, and much much more than other previous stadium demolitions:

The 2010 study estimated the cost of demolition at $78 million, including $10 million for asbestos removal and $10 million to put a “plaza” on the site after demolition. That does not include the $29.9 million the county still owes on the building …

The priciest stadium demolition a Houston Chronicle examination found was $22 million for New York’s Yankee Stadium, which was completed in 2010. Indianapolis’ RCA Dome cost $13 million to raze in 2008. The Seattle Kingdome was imploded in 2000 for about $10 million, as was Giants Stadium in New Jersey, which was razed in 2010. All had seating capacities similar to or larger than the Astrodome.

According to the article, the higher price is due to the nature of the foundation, the proximity to the other football stadium, asbestos, etc.  Experts quoted in the article are dubious, however.

In other news, the Astrodome cost $35 million to build, which in current dollars is about $250 million and change.  And yet there will still be other cities in the future who will eagerly build stadiums, ballparks and arenas for the local nine, five and eleven.

  1. Old Gator - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Why not just rename it Brewster McCloud Field, designate it a historic site and let it decay naturally?

    • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Brewster McCloud might be suitable. You can tell that the Harris County government is hoping it will fly away.

  2. Loose Changeup - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Why can’t they just let it be pulled into the sucking vortex that is the Astros?

    • danielcp0303 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      Why do words come out of your sucking vortex, that is your mouth?

      • Loose Changeup - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        It was a joke, but if you want to be serious, I don’t type with my mouth

    • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      Minute Maid is too far away. You would have to implode all of downtown. Probably quite a few Dallasites wish and hope for exactly that event.

  3. stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Absent the asbestos problems, I am surprised by the costs they have been throwing around myself. But they insist that the foundation and the proximity to Reliant preclude implosion. I haven’t read up on it much myself, but it may relate to the general character of gumbo clay soil and the fact that there are salt domes at greater depths. You raise an interesting question.

    I attended the first fame at the stadium in 1965, and had always hoped they would come up with some use to maintain it. But at this point, we are just watching it rust away. Probably better to stop the 3 MM$ or so annual maintenance and find some better use for the space.

    • DJ MC - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      The maintenance cost is the important thing here.

      Houston (or Harris County, whomever actually owns the building) can’t just let it rot and collapse. So they either have to pay to maintain the building at a minimum level or pay to demolish it.

      Right now, my guess is that the cost of the demolition and replacement is not worth it to them. If that cost is $88 million as suggested and the maintenance cost is $3 million, they can go for almost 30 years before it becomes less cost-effective to maintain then demolish.

      Of course, if demolition costs go down, or maintenance costs go up (which they will), or the city can come up with a replacement for the site that provides value, that might change.

  4. mybrunoblog - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Wait, doesn’t Roger Clemens live in Houston? 4 words. House arrest inside astrodome.

    • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      It would have to be expanded to hold his ego.

  5. Mr. Furious - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Holy cow, it cost $35MM to build the stadium 47 years ago, and the county still owes $29.9MM? How does that happen? Or am I misinterpreting those two numbers?

    • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      Several issues make for that superficially surprising number. The Astrodome was an innovative design at the time and several large changes had to be made. And Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico means that the climate is just about as corrosive as you can imagine to any building or structure. There were at least two major renovations I can remember; one was in the 100 MM$ range, if memory serves. What you are seeing is more the result of some of the major maintenance renovations towards the end of its life.

      FYI, it was a major staging point for evacuees from New Orleans ( 300 miles away) during Hurricane Rita. So it has done a few useful things in its post-baseball life. But it’s pretty sad to see it just sitting there.

      • Mr. Furious - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        Thanks very much for the clarification!

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Excellent point, good catch. What the hell?

      How much would it cost to simply fix it up, remove the asbestos and make it something else?

      • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:01 PM

        I tried to reply earlier, but my repsonses disappeared into the aether. Maybe it is just as well, I went home and read the article in the Chronicle. A lot of experts tend to agree the cost is far too high. Estimate for asbestos remediation is 10 MM$. That is probably necessary. But the major argument seems to be over the foundation, which is 30 ft thick and extends well into the water table. I would come down on the side of those who say “Why?”. Leave it there. It will restrict further uses of the land, but then you could also build a fair number of things on that base.

        Otherwise, the demo experts say the estimate is far too high.

        As to alternative uses, the County is really cagey about the answers, but I have seen numbers for some allternatives guessed at 500 MM$. If that is the case, they will tear it down. Houston/Harris County have invested in venues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer recently; as well as a major downtown upgrade. I don’t see people being excited with another large investment.

  6. missthemexpos - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Just wait till Olympic Stadium in Montreal gets demolished, after all it only cost a billion dollars to build.

  7. cur68 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Giant Paintball Park, Go-Cart Track, and Batting Cage while they’re trying to figure this out. Thing can earn its keep, can’t it?

    • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      They have some pretty wild proposals going. Giant indoor casino (not presently legal in Texas); giant space/science park; convention area/tourist attraction, etc.etc. Problem is that it may be expensive to tear down, but all that other stuff costs more.

      • cur68 - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        They’ll need to remediate the asbestos: a fantastic expense in a building that size. However, they have to do that regardless of what they do with the building. Its a “must-do” step, no matter what. If they go ahead and do that, though, its all in play: theme park to convention hall. Indoor hitting (golf, baseball) to paintball. Movie set, water park etc and whatever. Hell, emergency shelter for the next disaster seems like a good idea. A building that size could figure into a Mass Disaster City Plan really nicely. Right now its an eye sore and waste. An investment in the future, till they can come up with a way to utilize/demolish the land/structure, makes sense.

      • stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:07 PM

        You are right, Cur. It is presently part of the Harris County Hurricane Preparedness Plan.

  8. steveohho - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Give Milton Bradley an aluminum bat and get out of the way.

    • djpostl - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:42 AM

      Put Elijah Dukes on the other side and see which one gets to the middle first.

  9. dowhatifeellike - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Cut the roof off to reduce the risk of collapse, pull out the asbestos, and let the local high school teams use it. Both steps are needed to raze it anyway.

    Better still, find a way to generate revenue out of it and put the proceeds into a fund to eventually demolish the place.

  10. nolanwiffle - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    “Did someone say asbestos? I can be there in two and a half hours!”

    – Peter Angelos

    • mybrunoblog - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:52 PM

      Awesome! Very funny!

  11. simon94022 - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Seems like only yesterday when domes were the “stadiums of the future.”

  12. jlovenotjlo - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Great use of a fine idiom in the subject line

    • jlovenotjlo - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      And you said its going to cost a king’s ransom! Two “expensive” idioms in one article, how do you do it?

  13. jkaflagg - Apr 17, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    Although the Astrodome is an iconic venue, it is interesting how few fans ( if any) wax nostalgic for the place……it seemed to become obsolete in a hurry…..

    The ownership change out here in LA has begun to focus discussion on the future of Dodger Stadium, which is 3 years older than the dome…..Interestingly, there is some sentiment that the land is too valuable for a ballpark….that they should build a new stadium downtown, tear down Dodger stadium and build high- end condos and shopping malls up there…..

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