HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astrodome was a technological marvel when it opened in 1965. Dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," it was the first domed and air-conditioned stadium and became Houston's defining landmark, a symbol of the city's can-do spirit.
But eventually bigger and sleeker stadiums took its place, leaving the iconic structure that once hosted both professional baseball and football games empty and dilapidated, its future in limbo.
After Texas voters on Tuesday rejected a referendum that would have authorized up to $217 million in bonds to turn the Astrodome into a giant convention and event center, the stadium is likely to be demolished.
"We can't allow the once-proud Astrodome to sit like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot. This was the best effort (to revamp the stadium), and voters have turned it down," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. Fifty-three percent voted against the amendment.
Emmett said a final decision on what happens to the Astrodome will be up to the Commissioners Court, the group of local officials who manage the county. But he said the stadium's future was pretty much sealed with the referendum's failure. He said a decision would have to be made quickly but didn't say exactly when that would happen.
While some supporters who attended an election watch party Tuesday evening in an exhibition hall across from the Astrodome vowed to continue fighting for the stadium, preservation groups who had championed the referendum said there was really nothing more that could be done.
"Because it sat vacant for many years, there's been a lack of passion for it," said Beth Wiedower, senior field officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the groups backing the plan.
Wiedower said efforts to promote the amendment had reinvigorated that passion.