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Astrodome renovation plan shot down by voters

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Astrodome construction

A $217-million bond issue for Houston Astrodome renovations was rejected by Harris County voters, leading to the possible demolition of the historic facility.

The proposal would have converted the former home of the Houston Astros to a convention and event center. The vote Tuesday wasn't particularly close -- 53 percent against, 47 percent for -- as area residents seem willing to say goodbye to what was billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when it opened in 1965.

Astrodome

There is certainly sentiment for keeping one of Houston's most memorable landmarks, but proponents say there was a poor effort in selling renovation to the public. From the Houston Chronicle:

Dome opponents claimed that the Houston area didn't need more convention space. Yet city and county officials say that we don't get many of the biggest events specifically because we lack the convention and hotel space.

And while county officials consider the wrecking ball for the Dome, there are murmurs of expanding the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Despite the involvement of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there was no clarion call for voters to support this architectural moonshot - the greatest historic preservation project of modern history. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne came in at the last moment with a column defending the Astrodome as the most "quintessentially American" architectural work. While attending the Dome's early-morning yard sale last Saturday, Hawthorne was able to stand among the detritus within the Dome and stare up at its 200-foot paneled ceiling. "Seen from that vantage point, the building has lost none of its tremendous aesthetic power," he wrote.

There's some debate as to what the future will bring for the Astrodome. Harris County Commissioners say there will be no immediate decision on the Astrodome's fate; considering it could take upwards of $78 million to take the Astrodome down, it will take some considerable planning by county authorities before anything happens. Mayor Annise Parker wants to see a private fundraising drive for saving the Astrodome, while a local county commissioner wants to see the Astrodome torn down to make way for a drainage pond.

A drainage pond.

We discussed the proposal on NPR's Marketplace.

RELATED STORIES: Fate of Astrodome again under debate in HoustonFuture of Astrodome: Three scenariosAstros turn back the clock this season to mark Astrodome openingIs Houston angling to close Astrodome?

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