HOUSTON (AP) The county that owns the Houston Astrodome is considering a plan to build a two-level parking garage inside the derelict domed stadium.
The hope is to kick-start retrofitting and repurposing of the 51-year-old Houston icon that has stood vacant for 17 years.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who is the county's top elected administrator, is proposing raising the Astrodome floor to create a garage to accommodate 1,400 cars.
''People like to talk about, `What's the final grand plan going to be?' I don't know,'' Emmett told KPRC-TV in Houston.
By creating a large, climate-controlled open space, the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo could use the venue for special events. NRG Stadium, the retractable-roofed stadium next door to the Astrodome, is home to the Texans and the Livestock Show and Rodeo.
However, ''at that point, you've got nine acres of air-conditioned, covered space that a lot of groups would like to use. How many of the annual festivals and gatherings that we have in this community would love to schedule and know that they're not going to be impacted by the weather,'' he said.
However, the plan would preserve the structure for further redevelopment, Emmett spokesman Joe Stinebaker told the Houston Chronicle.
The $105 million plan would allow 240,000 square feet of floor space for use for an indoor park or a special-events venue. County officials would hope to attract retail, commercial or hospitality activities to more than 550,000 square feet of space around the core development.
''You suddenly are now generating some revenue and it becomes a usable facility again,'' Emmett said
A cost analysis of raising the floor and gutting the rest of the structure is to be presented to the county capital improvement committee Tuesday. Emmett said he hopes commissioners will vote Sept. 27 on whether to budget the project.
''I think the simple plan really is the best plan right now,'' Emmett said.
Harris County voters rejected a $217 million bond proposal to fund a massive Astrodome renovation.
The structure now costs the county $200,000 a year to maintain. Demolishing the Astrodome, which is designated a state antiquities landmark requiring state permission to alter or demolish, would cost $35 million to $50 million, said County Engineer John Blount.
This story has been corrected to show the number of cars expected to be accommodated to be 1,400.