How a perfect storm has created the ideal time and reason to reboot the Astrodome

Photos by: Wiki photo, Harris County Sports Corps via HBJ. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Did you read where the Chicago Cubs are planning to put a sports betting room right there at Wrigley Field? The Cubs are the first Major League Baseball team to acknowledge, embrace – and will host – sports betting at its stadium. Once approved by Illinois legislators, the sportsbook at Wrigley will be operated by DraftKings.

Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., home to the Washington Wizards basketball team and Washington Capitals hockey team, already is clearing space for a sports gambling room.

Imagine that, Cubs fans can arrive at Wrigley Field during batting practice, lay down a bet on the Cubs to win, watch the game, have a couple of beers and pick up their winnings on their way out.

Or tear up their losing bet tickets.

Announcing the deal with DraftKings, Cubs official Crane Kenney said, "An increasing number of sports fans want to integrate sports betting into their game experience, and we're excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue."

Wouldn't it be something if Texas allowed a sports gambling room at Minute Maid Park or Toyota Center or NRG Stadium?

Or the Astrodome! Why do I have to come up with every good idea around here?

Houston's iconic, Space Age building isn't busy these days - not since Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo squashed a $105 million project to renovate the Dome. The Dome makeover was a pet project of her predecessor, Ed Emmett.

"The plan that had been designed wouldn't have yielded truly a usable building," Hidalgo said. "Right now we don't have specific plans for the Astrodome. It's just not a priority."

So the Astrodome sits empty and unloved, slowly sinking deeper in despair. It's sad to walk by the once-mighty stadium on our way to eat turkey legs and watch Alan Jackson perform at the Rodeo. Gee, I hope he sings that Chattahoochee song.

The thing is, the Astrodome's structure is sound. It just needs lots of money, a new coat of paint, some TLC and a visit by the Orkin man. My position: either fix it up or tear it down. Letting it fade away and rot is ridiculous. It makes us look stupid.

Many ideas to renovate and repurpose the Astrodome have been floated in recent years. Some were kooky, like indoor ski jumping and a Wild West movie studio. Some made sense, like a new convention center and hotel in the same historic building.

But nothing makes more sense than creating one of the world's largest casino, hotel and convention center complexes. Of course, this would require the approval of the Texas Legislature. However, a bill to legalize sports betting and casino gambling would have to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, which would be a bad beat.

Of course, the final say should rest with Texas voters, but our fearless leaders in Austin refuse to put sports betting or casino gambling on a ballot, where approval would be a lock.

Fun facts: WinStar World Casino, the largest casino on Earth, is located in Thackerville, Oklahoma, just north of Texas. Louisiana, our neighbor to the east, has 28 casinos.

You know what WinStar World Casino and all those casinos in Louisiana have in common? Their parking lots are filled with cars with Texas license plates. We're missing out on millions of dollars.

It can't be that our governor is opposed to gambling, because we have the Texas Lottery (a sucker's play), horse racing, dog racing and bingo. Meanwhile, Sam Houston Race Park has limited live racing days and Gulf Greyhound Park closed its doors back in June.

I wonder why Abbott is against casinos. Any guesses?

A Texas-sized casino and hotel within the Astrodome would be a monster hit. Just think, tipsy convention goers wouldn't have to stumble outside for their Uber pickup. Texans fans could drop by the casino for some action before walking to NRG Stadium for football games. The NRG Park has tons of parking space. It's all right there.

The Woodlands did it right. When there's a Friday or Saturday night concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, fans often make a weekend of it. They spend money on concert tickets, restaurants and hotels in The Woodlands.

Repurposing the Astrodome into a casino and hotel would be a windfall for Houston and Harris County. Maybe we could present the Dome to Texas' superstar renovators Chip and Joanne Gaines as a Fixer Upper. Restaurants along 610 would thrive. Fans could spend weekends around a Texans game. Families could spend more days at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Rolling Stones fans could spend $50 plus tax for a $5 T-shirt.

Spend, spend, spend. That's the whole idea. We sort of could use a few extra bucks around here.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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