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Board backs turning Astrodome into convention hall

Thursday - 6/20/2013, 2:36am  ET

FILE - In this May 21, 2012, file photo, rows of dirty, tattered seats ring the Astrodome in Houston. Once touted as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the nation's first domed stadium sits quietly gathering dust and items for storage. The National Trust for Historic Preservation put the Astrodome on its 2013 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The Astrodome was the world’s first domed, air-conditioned stadium and needs a viable plan to be reused to avoid demolition. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

JUAN A. LOZANO
Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astrodome, an iconic stadium that's fallen into disrepair since it was shuttered four years ago, could see new life as a giant convention center and exhibition space under a plan recommended by a county board on Wednesday.

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. The board said the groups promoting the private plans didn't meet the project's criteria by a deadline earlier this month.

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.

"We have a chance to honor the dome's legacy and do it in a functional manner that continues to preserve the memories and history of the building while inspiring the future," said Kevin Hoffman, the sports corporation's deputy executive director.

The project, dubbed "The New Dome Experience," would cost an estimated $194 million and take about 2
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