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Future plans for Astrodome uncertain

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HOUSTON (AP)

The dilemma of the deteriorating Houston Astrodome remained unresolved Tuesday with the passing of a deadline to put a bond referendum before voters in May.

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Harris County commissioners took no action on the ballot initiative to raise millions of dollars to do something with the 48-year-old vacant stadium. But no one's really sure what to do with it.

A similar deadline last year to put the question before voters in November also came and went.

''We have waited for ideas for years and years on the dome,'' Commissioner Steve Radack told The Houston Chronicle. ''It wouldn't surprise me if we wait years and years more before something happens.

''I'm not in a huge rush because I don't think we have the ideas and enough accurate information right now to really be able to present something to the voters.''

The Astrodome's been unfit for occupancy since 2009. It hasn't been home to a sports team since the Houston Astros moved to their new downtown baseball stadium in 2000. It's most prominent use in recent years was as a shelter for Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

When it opened in April 1965, the world's first domed and air-conditioned stadium for baseball and football was dubbed the ''Eighth Wonder of the World.'' It now languishes next to larger and newer Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL's Houston Texans, prompting County Judge Ed Emmett to describe the dome quandary as, ''Wonder what we should do with it?''

The county still owes some $30 million in construction debt for it, plus more than a couple of million dollars is needed every year just to keep the place standing.

A report last year from consultants hired by the county sports board that runs Reliant Park, the overall area that includes the dome and the Texans' stadium, put a $270 million price tag on dome renovations. Just tearing it down and making a plaza area would cost $64 million, according to the consultants.

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