The Astrodome hosted the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, college basketball's "Game of the Century" between Houston and UCLA in 1968 and WrestleMania before Katrina forced thousands of people inside in 2005.
"It was an amazing structure at its time," said Mark Miller, general manager of the corporation, which oversees the Astrodome, Reliant Stadium and other complexes on a 340-acre campus.
"People were coming from all over the world to see the Astrodome. It was that significant. People like Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, John Wayne," Miller added. "It seems commonplace now, but for its time, being the first, it was just incredible."
Other cities followed with their own domes: the Kingdome in Seattle, now gone; Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Minneapolis' Metrodome; and New Orleans' Superdome, considered bigger and better than the Astrodome.
"Eventually, it's always about money," said Bob Bluthardt, former chairman of the ballparks research committee at the Society for American Baseball Research. "And the Astrodome went from being state-of-the-art to being obsolete in barely a generation."
John Pastier, an architect who wrote the 2006 book "Historic Ballparks," agreed.
"The fixed dome had a certain period of currency and then was replaced by retractable domes," he said.
The NFL's Houston Oilers left for Tennessee in the 1990s. Baseball's Houston Astros wanted their own stadium, so they built Minute Maid Park with a retractable roof. The NFL's Texans also got a new retractable-roof stadium — Reliant — that opened in 2002.
Since then, the Astrodome hasn't turned a profit.
Rhoda said the consultants also recommended replacing nearby — and also decaying — Reliant Arena, a tiny, inadequate indoor arena across a parking lot from the Astrodome. The consultants recommended building a new 10,000-seat arena, along with adding a 2,500-space parking garage and exhibition space around the Astrodome itself.
That proposal also included a hotel, with a total cost to the county of about $385 million. Miller said that option could be considered separately from the Astrodome's future — and may even be the more urgent priority for county commissioners.
"They could vote on one and not the other," Miller said. "They can do a multitude of things. It's totally up to them."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.