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Astrodome may see 1 last inning after ‘no’ vote

Mark Miller manages arenas, including the Astrodome. Voters rejected a proposal to transform the old stadium.

Michael Stravato/The New York Times

Mark Miller manages arenas, including the Astrodome. Voters rejected a proposal to transform the old stadium.

HOUSTON — Indoor ski slopes. Amusement park. Water park. Sports memorabilia museum. Riverwalk, though there is only a bayou.

And, most recently, $217 million multipurpose facility.

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There has been no shortage of proposals for how to save the Houston Astrodome.

Yet nearly 15 years after the last professional sports team left the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World to decay under the relentless Texas sun, voters have rejected what some county officials had touted as the only way to save the prized dome from demolition.

A bond referendum would have turned the stadium, once home to MLB’s Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers, into a convention and events center. Harris County voted against it, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Still, this might not be the stadium’s last inning.

‘‘There’s a chance,’’ said Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, caretaker of the Astrodome and the rest of the vast complex it is a part of, which also includes the Houston Texans’ Reliant Stadium. ‘‘The building’s still there. There’s no formal plan or authorization to demolish the building, and until somebody brings such a plan to fruition, there’s a chance.’’

A decision is not on the horizon, though. County commissioners are in no rush to approve demolition and waver on other options.

‘‘It’s up in the air,’’ said County Commissioner Steve Radack. ‘‘The proposal was rejected by the voters. We’re back to where we were. Square one.’’

The structure was a technological marvel when it opened in 1965, the first domed, air-conditioned stadium. But since 1999, the Astrodome has been a nostalgic symbol of a bygone era. The days when Mickey Mantle hit home runs on AstroTurf, Elvis Presley swooned and crooned, and Billie Jean King took on Bobby Riggs in the ‘‘Battle of the Sexes’’ tennis match are faded memories.

Even the dome’s most prominent recent residents — Hurricane Katrina evacuees — have been gone for years.

The county still pays some $2.5 million annually to maintain, power, and insure the stadium. It is also paying $8 million to remove asbestos, old ticket booths, and exterior walkways. Though the building is structurally sound, the interior is decrepit. Last year, trash littered the aisles between torn, cushioned stadium seats.

So what now?

The Astrodome can remain standing, abandoned but a prominent part of the city’s skyline.

 The county can pay an estimated $78 million for demolition and another $20 million to fill the gigantic hole left behind, creating an additional parking lot to add to the complex’s current 26,000 parking spaces. Other domes and stadiums have been demolished in recent years, including the Kingdome in Seattle, the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

 Or, after demolition, the commissioners could fill the hole with water, creating a detention pond to help with flood control in a low-lying area that abuts a major medical hub.

The commissioners can again review some of the 21 proposals submitted by the public after the county asked for ideas. Loston said they range from the ‘‘sublime to the ridiculous.’’ This, though, is unlikely because even the more serious proposals had no funding. Some of the others, such as one to collect rain runoff and use it to create snow for indoor ski slopes, or another to transform the arena into a film studio and help Houston become ‘‘Hollywood South,’’ probably would not get the necessary backing.

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