Voters to decide on $217M plan to revamp Astrodome

HOUSTON (AP) — The fate of a plan to renovate the Houston Astrodome, an iconic stadium that's fallen into disrepair since

it was shuttered four years ago, will be in the hands of voters this fall.

Harris County commissioners on Tuesday approved placing a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot that will ask voters to authorize up

to $217 million in bonds to pay for a plan to turn the stadium into a giant convention center and exhibition space.

County officials are stressing to voters that if the ballot measure is approved, it will mean a property tax increase of around

half a cent per $100 of assessed value.

Officials say tax breaks, naming rights and other incentives are expected to lower the project's cost. The final figure that

will be on the ballot is expected to be lower than $217 million.

The renovation project from the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., dubbed "The New Dome Experience," would take about

2 ½ years to complete.

The proposal calls for creating 350,000

square feet of exhibition space by removing all the interior seats and

raising the

floor to street level. Other changes include creating 400,000

square feet of plaza and green space on the outside of the structure.

The Harris County Sports & Convention

Corp. opted to go with its own plan for the world's first domed,

air-conditioned stadium

instead of one of 19 private-sector plans submitted for its reuse.

Among the private plans was one that would have turned the Astrodome into a tourist area with retail and restaurant space

and another that would have stripped the structure to its steel frame and turned the area into a park.

Officials have been considering the Astrodome's fate since it was deemed unfit for occupancy and closed for good in 2009.

The building, one of Houston's signature structures, costs taxpayers about $3 million per year for basic maintenance.

Opened in 1965, the Astrodome was dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

The 400,000-square foot dome was once home to Major League Baseball's Houston Astros and the NFL's Houston Oilers. It was

also home to the city's rodeo until 2003. Its most prominent use in recent years was as a shelter for Louisiana residents

displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.