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What Does It Mean that the Astrodome Has Been Added to the National Register of Historic Places?

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The ongoing efforts to preserve the Astrodome in some form or another continue apace, with the latest development in the saga being the news that the Dome was added, last week, to the National Register of Historic Places.

That’s exciting news for save-the-Dome proponents, at least at first blush, but it doesn’t mean what they might hope it does. As ESPN.com reports: 

The National Park Service announced this week that the Astrodome had been added to its National Register of Historic Places, joining more than 1.5 million other buildings and properties.

The designation, mostly honorary, means any effort to revamp the stadium can be eligible for federal and state tax credits as well as other economic incentives, said Paul Lusignan, a historian with the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C.

But the designation doesn’t place any rules on what Harris County, which owns the stadium, can do with the facility.

Just because a building is on the historic registry doesn’t mean that it can’t be torn down, in other words, and the smart money is still betting on that eventual outcome. 

The possibility that the Astrodome might survive, meanwhile, lies in the hands of private investors who haven’t yet been identified—and who may not exist—who could, theoretically, be tempted by the potential tax credits to submit viable proposals to the county. That’s pretty far from a sure thing, but the fact that Harris County has yet to demolish the building means that the whole enterprise remains in limbo. As Austin’s KVUE reported in November: 

“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’s 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.

Nothing about that changes with the decision to put the Astrodome on the historic register—which means that for people who want to learn the fate of the building, there’s just a lot of waiting left to do. 

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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