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Old 05-02-2015, 11:00 PM   #1
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Astrodome solutions sought in Germany

A 700,000-square-foot Tropical Islands resort is where Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is hoping to find business solutions that can be applied to the Astrodome.

"I don't care about the resort itself," Emmett said. "I want to know how much doe it cost to maintain this structure."

There are immediate differences between the Astrodome and the massive resort plunked in the German countryside. Two Astrodomes could fit inside the Tropical Islands Resort.

Emmett said he is more interested in learning about some of the similarities. Particularly, how do you maintain a massive defunct structure, initially designed to build airships, so it can be turned into something completely different.

"Particularly the basics," Emmett said. "Just what are the basics of maintaining, forget all the fluff."

Emmett said he will be asking about the ongoing maintenance cost for the building itself. Emmett is also interested in how a rain forest and tropical flowers are able to thrive in an indoor setting. The interior of the building is kept at a constant 78 degrees and 64 percent humidity. These main questions are how Emmett tailored his visit to meet with specific resort officials.

"The engineer, the person in charge of making it all work," Emmett said. "The horticulturists, the folks that make sure all the plants continue to grow."

It's no secret Emmett has long wanted to turn the Astrodome into an indoor park. But the park would only be a base. Emmett wants to start with a park that can accommodate annual events like the rodeo or NFL exhibits, and then have private companies install and maintain different attractions in the Dome's upper-level rings.

"They can stay the way they are until a museum comes in, or an entertainment venue or an exercise facility," Emmett said.

Emmett will also meet with the resort's general manager to get an idea of how the company installed different, potentially competing attractions inside the same space. However, Emett said whatever is learned from this trip, the cost to re-purpose the Astrodome will be nowhere near what it was to get the Tropical Islands Resort open.

It took an hour train ride from Berlin to reach the resort. There is little else near the facility to help attract visitors. The distance is what prompted resort owners to add on rooms and campgrounds for overnight stays to make the resort profitable.

"We won't have that ongoing maintenance cost and outflow of cash they had here," Emmett said.

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