Date: December 14 – 19, 2014
Location: Houston/Harris County, Texas
Sponsor: Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC)
Subject Area: Redevelopment of the Astrodome
Panel Chair: Wayne Ratkovich
BACKGROUND AND PANEL ASSIGNMENT
A ULI Panel was convened by ULI to evaluate reuse possibilities for the vacant sports facility, which is part of the 350-acre NRG Park that also includes NRG Stadium, NRG Center, and NRG Arena. The panel’s visit, which took place December 14-19, was requested by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC).
The panel was chaired by longtime ULI member Wayne Ratkovich, president of The Ratkovich Company, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in urban infill and rehabilitation projects primarily in Southern California. “We quickly realized that the historic value of the site made retaining the Astrodome structure essential,” Ratkovich said. He noted that the panel understood the importance of factoring in the impact of an overhaul on the two primary tenants of NRG Park – the National Football League’s Houston Texans franchise and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). “Our vision for the Astrodome is one of a grand civic space that enhances the entire NRG Park Complex,” Ratkovich said.
SUMMARY OR RECOMMENDATIONS
The report provides details on the following recommendations from the panel:
- Recognize the Astrodome’s iconic status with a museum celebrating its history as the world’s first domed sports stadium and create a new vision that rehabilitates the dome and the surrounding portions of NRG Park.
- Redevelop the Astrodome as a multi-use facility.
- Develop 1,500 additional parking spaces in the lower levels of the Astrodome.
- Create a new ground floor in the Astrodome interior that can accommodate a variety of uses, including a park.
- Create a new outdoor public space of live oak allée as a promenade between the nearby light rail station and the east entrance to the Astrodome.
- Construct permanent outdoor covered pavilions along the allée.
- Enhance the outside of the Astrodome with hardscape and landscape features.
- Reuse the various floors of the Astrodome for a variety of programmable space, such as new space to extend the game-day experience for Houston Texans fans, new spaces for the rodeo, and additional space for the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC is another major user of NRG Park facilities).
- Use the transformed space for activities such as community festivals, farmers markets, movie nights, charity events and private events that will generate new revenue streams.
- Identify and tap new sources of capital and operational funds.
- Create a new leadership initiative to unite vision with action.
The report notes that the complexity of such a monumental transformation – turning a vast empty interior space (dubbed the “biggest room in the world” by one panelist) into a programmable indoor park and civic space – calls for the adoption by Harris County of a framework of guiding principles to ensure a high-quality outcome. “The re-purposed Astrodome must be aesthetically and historically sensitive as well as functional and self-sustaining,” the report says.