TIMELINE of ACTIVITIES 2013-2021
Apr 2013: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston Texans, and others call for the demolition of the Astrodome citing the drain on public coffers and the lack of a tenant and viable use.
Jun 2013: The Astrodome is included in America’s 11 Most Endangered Places list issued annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is selected for inclusion in their “National Treasure” program which provides resources to help save historic sites. Both designations are a result of the efforts and advocacy of Beth Wiedower Jackson, former National Trust staff and current Executive Director of the Astrodome Conservancy. Media impressions from both selections swell to more than 615 million hits, blasting the Astrodome into the national spotlight.
Jul 2013: Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC) commissions a comprehensive master plan for NRG Park, including the Astrodome. No recommendation for or against preservation and redevelopment of the Dome is included.
Aug 2013: Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and the HCSCC unveil a “New Dome Experience” and place a $217 million dollar public bond referendum on the November 2013 ballot.
Sep 2013: Local and national non-profit organizations, including Preservation Houston, Houston Arts & Media, Houston Mod, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation bring significant financial resources and expertise to the Astrodome campaign. The preservation partnership launches a coordinated education and advocacy campaign aimed at raising awareness of the significance of the Astrodome and its reuse potential. The approximate value of National Trust investment in the Save the Dome efforts is $250,000.
Nov 2013: The “New Dome Experience” proposal narrowly fails at the polls. Voters within Houston city limits overwhelmingly approved the measure, but votes from elsewhere in Harris County favored opposition to the bond referendum.
Feb 2014: The Astrodome is officially added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service thanks to the efforts of Cynthia Neely and Ted Powell, private citizens who support the Astrodome Conservancy. The listing makes the Dome eligible for federal and state historic rehabilitation tax incentives and additional funding resources. Potential private investment via historic tax credits could reach as high as 45% of the project’s qualified rehabilitation costs.
Jul 2014: More than a half-dozen Astrodome Conservancy supporters travel at their own expense to Alpine, Texas to attend a quarterly meeting of the Texas Historical Commission in support of designating the Astrodome a State Antiquities Landmark. Such designation offers protection to the structure in the form of required review and permitting for alterations (including demolition) to the Dome.
Dec 2014: Beth Wiedower Jackson researches and recommends engaging the Urban Land Institute as a next step in determining the feasibility of Astrodome reuse. Astrodome Conservancy supporters urge Harris County to participate and fund a national Advisory Services Panel which is ultimately co-sponsored by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation ($100,000) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation ($25,000). The exercise focuses on Astrodome reuse and features panelists from the fields of finance, real estate development, architecture, planning, historic preservation, economic development, and public policy who convene for a week to interview more than 80 Astrodome and Harris County stakeholders before delivering recommendations for reusing the Dome. The final ULI report enthusiastically supports reusing the Astrodome and emphasizes the necessity of a non-profit partner to work together with Harris County in the redevelopment. Of note, the panel recommends that philanthropy can and should play a role in project funding.
Jan 2015: Judge Emmett forms an Astrodome “kitchen cabinet” of public and private leaders to develop strategies to implement the ULI recommendations. These volunteers meet quarterly for three years developing and advancing Harris County’s proposed Astrodome reuse plan. The group calls for the creation of a private entity to partner with Harris County in the redevelopment and activation of the Astrodome.
Apr 2015: To keep the Dome in the press and in the public’s eye, Beth Wiedower Jackson and the National Trust for Historic Preservation suggest an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Astrodome’s opening. More than 25,000 people join Harris County and co-host Preservation Houston and the National Trust for a 50th Birthday Party featuring food and beverages, entertainment, access to the floor of the Astrodome, and a giant Dome-shaped birthday cake. Astrodome Conservancy supporters, partners, and board members donate more than $30,000 in goods and services to the event.
Jun 2016: The non-profit Astrodome Conservancy is created, led by Phoebe Tudor, Chair; Minnette Boesel, Vice-Chair and Treasurer; and Judy Nyquist, Secretary. Margaret Lawler, former executive director of the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners, signs on as Executive Director for the Astrodome Conservancy, and the Board of Directors convenes for its inaugural meeting shortly thereafter.
Sep 2016: Harris County Commissioners’ Court votes to approve $105 million to fund Phase 1 of the Astrodome’s revitalization. This allocation funds the design and engineering portion at nearly $10.5 million and directs work to begin immediately.
Astrodome Conservancy works with the Houston Bowl Host Committee, the Nov 2016: NFL, and Harris County on plans to present “Star Dome” — a multidisciplinary light and sound experience during Super Bowl LI. Despite strong support for the concept, the NFL ultimately decides not to pursue it due to security concerns.
Oct 2016: A growing Astrodome Conservancy board meets and agrees to engage HR&A Advisors as consultants to begin developing a programming framework for the Dome, with emphasis on bringing the “Star Dome” concept to fruition. This initial investment is funded by a $100,000 challenge grant from Astrodome Conservancy Chair Phoebe Tudor and lays the groundwork for the vision of the Conservancy going forward.
Jan 2017: Judge Emmett hosts a legislative delegation to the Astrodome. Members of the Texas legislature representing Houston, Harris County, and beyond tour the Dome and hear about Harris County’s plans for revitalization.
Astrodome Conservancy leadership meet with Texas Historical Commission (THC) Chairman John Nau in Houston in advance of the quarterly meeting of the Commission where they successfully convince him to support the Dome’s application for landmark designation. Conservancy board members Phoebe Tudor, Minnette Boesel, and Truett Latimer, former director of the THC, are joined by Executive Director Margaret Lawler and Astrodome Conservancy supporters as they travel to Austin at their expense to attend the Commission and speak in favor of the Astrodome’s application at a public hearing. The Texas Historical Commission votes unanimously to designate the Astrodome as a State Antiquities Landmark, providing a level of protection to the Eighth Wonder of the World and elevating its status as a highly significant site in Texas.
Feb 2017: Conservancy pays HR&A Advisors to spend three days in Houston interviewing more than 30 Harris County community leaders, arts organization representatives, and non-profit executives as part of the process to envision possibilities for activating the Astrodome and creating opportunities for public engagement.
Astrodome Conservancy launch reception at the George R. Brown Convention Center introduces more than 100 interested and influential people to the Conservancy. The event features presentations of the “Star Dome” concept and the HR&A visioning process for the Dome, plus the announcement of the Tudor’s $100,000 challenge grant to drive future contributions. The launch resulted in favorable press coverage of both the Conservancy and the Astrodome’s future.
Senator John Whitmire introduces Texas Senate Bill 884 proposing the requirement of a public referendum on Harris County’s $105 million plan for Astrodome reuse.
Mar 2017: Judge Emmett, Phoebe Tudor, Ryan Walsh, Margaret Lawler, Mike Acosta, among other Astrodome supporters, travel to Austin to attend the Texas Senate’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting. Judge Emmett, Phoebe Tudor, Ryan Walsh, Mike Acosta, and others spoke against Senator Whitmire’s bill and in favor of the County’s reuse plan, Phase 1. There is no public support for SB 884 at the hearing. Regardless, the Senate Committee votes unanimously to advance the bill, where it is approved by the full Senate. Upon being sent to the Texas House of Representatives, Conservancy Chair Phoebe Tudor travels again to Austin to lobby on behalf of the Dome, this time convincing Representative Sara Davis to withdraw her support based on a list of Astrodome Conservancy supporters and advocates. SB 884 doesn’t advance in the Texas House and the 2017 session ends without action on Senator Whitmire’s proposed legislation.
May 2017: Astrodome Conservancy launches a crowdfunding campaign as part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Cities” project in partnership with Heineken. Funds raised will be matched by Heineken and will go towards a public event to celebrate the Astrodome and advance the reuse plan. The campaign raises more than $64,000 in a matter of weeks and draws national media attention to the Dome.
Jun 2017: Astrodome Conservancy celebrates the conclusion of the first year of operations by honoring supporters at a community outreach event held at Eighth Wonder Brewery. Conservancy board member Ryan Soroka hosts the event and donates goods and proceeds to the project. Judge Emmett attends and speaks to the County’s efforts and progress towards Astrodome reuse.
Houston Endowment awards the Astrodome Conservancy a $150,000 grant to fund operations and the creation of a Strategic Plan to guide the direction of the organization.
Aug 2017: Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation Board of Directors unanimously approves a Letter of Agreement with the Astrodome Conservancy. The letter is signed by both parties hereby solidifying the partnerships’ intent going forward.
Oct 2017: Astrodome Conservancy hosts a “friend-raiser” in collaboration with Stages Repertory Theater featuring the production, Balls, a world-premiere play about the 1973 Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis match in the Astrodome.
Conservancy hosts the “Okt-DOMER-Fest” gathering at Eighth Wonder Brewery, welcoming more than 50 supporters and interested advocates for the Astrodome project.
Mar 2018: Astrodome Conservancy hires Beth Wiedower Jackson, formerly of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to assume the role of Executive Director upon the retirement of Margaret Lawler.
Staff and board members of Astrodome Conservancy continue to meet with Dec 2018: individuals and organizations interested in future engagement with the Astrodome, including the Houston Engineering and Scientific Society (HESS), the Coalition of Hispanics for Excellence in International Technology and the Arts (CHIETA), representatives of the Triple Five Group developers, 8th Wonder World, Wyndham, Live Nation, the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, artists, solar and green energy advocates, music festivals, the Rice Design Alliance, the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Enchant Christmas, among others.
Apr 2018: In partnership, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation and the Astrodome Conservancy host “Domecoming” — a celebration of the 53rd anniversary of the opening of the Astrodome which invites the public into the Dome for a final time before renovations begin. Sponsors include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Eighth Wonder Brewery, and the R.E. “Bob” and Vivian Smith Foundation. The Conservancy and partners contribute more than $153,000 to the joint effort and triples its reach among Dome supporters.
Astrodome Conservancy launches a strategic planning process to identify priorities and create a roadmap for the growth and development of the organization through 2021. The Conservancy Board of Directors hires Public Communications Inc. (PCI) of Chicago to conduct the process which begins with dozens of interviews with Domecoming guests at the event.
Jun 2018: Year-end event hosted by Eighth Wonder Brewery highlights Astrodome Conservancy activities for supporters and provides updates on Harris County Phase 1 redevelopment.
Oct 2018: Conservancy Vice-Chair Minnette Boesel and Executive Director Beth Wiedower Jackson meet with the candidate for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to introduce the organization, the Astrodome project, and answer questions about the process to date.
Nov 2018: County Judge candidate Lina Hidalgo elected to office by popular vote.
Dec 2018: Astrodome Conservancy board member contributions surpass $240,750 in just two and half years, signaling strong support and an ongoing commitment to both the Astrodome and the partnership with Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation. Financial support from the philanthropic community equals $203,750 to date.
The leadership of Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation and the Astrodome Conservancy began negotiations to codify a partnership to advance the reuse and redevelopment of the Astrodome.
Jan 2019: Conservancy Chair Phoebe Tudor and Vice-Chair Minnette Boesel joined Judge Hidalgo’s host committee for a fundraiser to support the newly-elected executive of Harris County and advocate for the Astrodome project. Phoebe Tudor joins the Judge’s finance committee as a key voice and supporter.
Astrodome Conservancy leadership and staff meet again with County Judge Lina Hidalgo in support of Harris County’s reuse plan and Phase 1 of the Astrodome’s redevelopment.
June 2019: Astrodome Conservancy submits Astrodome Project Development proposal to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner Rodney Ellis offering to undertake key areas of research and development – Due Diligence, Financing, Incentives, and Governance/Ownership Structure – on behalf of the project and in partnership with Harris County and various stakeholders.
Aug 2019: Conservancy staff and leadership engage expertise in financing, planning, and public outreach as work begins on key Project Development items.
Nov 2019: Stonehenge Capital presents potential financing tools and incentives package for Astrodome redevelopment to the Astrodome Conservancy Board of Directors.
June 2020: Astrodome Conservancy leadership commits to continuing operations at a reduced level in the wake of the international coronavirus pandemic. Fundraising efforts begin for the public engagement and market assessment items under the Astrodome Project Development scope of work.
Sep 2020: The Cullen Foundation awards a lead gift of $75,000 for the Astrodome Conservancy’s public engagement undertaking as part of the Astrodome Project Development scope of work.
Dec 2020: Astrodome Conservancy receives a $15,000 grant award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in support of public engagement activities.
Jan 2021: Launch of the Conservancy’s Future Dome: A Campaign for Public Engagement seeking public input and visioning for the future of the Astrodome.
April 2021: Inaugural Race for the Dome benefitting the Astrodome Conservancy raises awareness and support for the organization. More than 200 participants qualify to walk, run, or cycle 8 laps around the Eighth Wonder of the World in NRG Park as a special perk of the virtual event.
Financial and in-kind resources contributed by Conservancy and partners,
2013 – 2020: $1,177,000