A Second Life

Some people may say I’m crazy, launching a magazine in the worst economy our nation has experienced since the Great Depression. The magazine business is a tough one, and focusing on the construction industry, which has been especially hard hit the past four years, is even more challenging. However, everywhere I travel across this great country I couldn’t ignore all the retrofitting taking place.

In fact, just a couple months ago, I picked up a USA Today while traveling and was excited to see the front page article in the “Business” section was about the possibility of a $270 million retrofit of the Astrodome in Houston. The Astrodome hasn’t turned a profit in years and officially closed in 2008. It is facing the fate of so many of our great U.S. buildings: a wrecking ball. Fortunately, that prospect has offended many Houstonians. I have always been a huge sports fan and when I was a kid I was in awe of the Astrodome. Opened in 1965, its magnificent dome was so ahead of its time the stadium was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The proposal to save the Astrodome, which has been submitted to the Harris County Sports and Convention Agency, would keep the shell of the stadium and reconfigure the space inside—more than 300,000 square feet—for trade shows, exhibitions and various sporting events, including basketball and football games. I, for one, am rooting for the Astrodome. Not only does it hold a place in our nation’s history, but it also holds a place in so many people’s personal histories, including mine. In the 1990s I was just starting my magazine career and the first trade show I attended was in Houston. I took the opportunity to sit in the Astrodome and stare up at that dome. I was as amazed by it as I had been as a kid. I would hate to see that workmanship and history demolished and replaced by something much less awe-inspiring.

The Astrodome and so many buildings across our country have so much potential to be as great—or dare I say better—than what they once were. The U.S. has never really treasured its buildings. We build them, use them for a few years and demolish them to make way for new structures. I think this economy is changing the way we look at our buildings. It’s forcing us to restore the buildings we have, give them a second life and allow a whole new generation to marvel at the structures that have meant so much to us. This is a great thing, and I wanted to be the one to showcase the inspirational retrofits occurring around our nation and highlight those people who are finally treasuring our buildings and the people who put so much effort into designing and building them for us.

Do you have a story about a building you love that is being retrofitted? Please tell me about it in the comment section below and your thoughts may appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

About the Author

John Riester
Riester has more than 25 years’ experience in the commercial design and construction industries. He has been the founder and publisher of three nationally circulated magazines in the commercial construction and green-design industries. Riester also has been national sales manager of several trade publications. He brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience in magazine publishing and advertising sales, as well as industry relationships, to retrofit magazine.

1 Comment on "A Second Life"

  1. John,

    I remember the Astrodome well. My professional career started as a freshman in high school as a northern New Jersey sportswriter. At the age of 19, I had the opportunity to travel as a beat writer with the New York Jets football team. To this day, I hold the distinction of being the youngest beat writer in the National Football League.

    My first road trip was to Houston and the Astrodome on August 2, 1973 for a preseason game. Weeb Ewbank was in his final season as coach and we traveled the day before the game and, after checking into the hotel, headed over to the stadium for a light workout.

    While standing on the field in amazement of this indoor stadium, I felt some water drops (thinking it was rain) on my head. In reality, the roof had a leak in it and I was no longer impressed with the Astrodome.

    By the way, the Oilers won, 16-13.

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