Known as "The Eight Wonder of the World", the
Astrodome was home to the Houston Astros for 35 years and was the
first dome stadium in any sport. Before Major League Baseball
awarded Houston an expansion franchise, a dome stadium was already being planned by Judge Roy Hofheinz.
Trying to lure a major league team to the Houston area, Hofheinz
built a model of a domed stadium and presented it to National
League owners. On October 17, 1960 Houston was awarded a franchise.
Voters then approved an $18 million bond to build the stadium. Plans were drawn for the domed stadium and construction began January 3, 1962. Meanwhile, the baseball franchise,
originally known as the Colt .45s began playing in April 1962 at
Colt Stadium, adjacent to where the dome stadium was
dome stadium would be able to house baseball,
football, rodeos and many other attractions.
Initially it was named the Harris County Dome
Stadium, but later renamed the Astrodome. The Colt
.45s played three years at Colt Stadium, then
changed their name to the Houston Astros when they
moved into the Astrodome. The move to the Astrodome
was welcomed because it was air-conditioned. On
April 9, 1965, the first baseball game was played at
the Astrodome, an exhibition match between the
Yankees and Astros. Official opening day ceremonies
were held on April 12, 1965. Six levels of
multicolored seats circled from the left field foul
pole to homeplate and around to the right field foul
pole. The Astrodome became home of two football
teams in 1965: the University of Houston and the
Houston Oilers. In order for football to be played
at the Astrodome, two sets of 5,010 seats could be
moved to form a football gridiron. The Astrodome was
one of the first stadiums to have luxury suites with
53 and each of the 42,217 seats in the Astrodome
were cushioned. Behind the pavilion seats in
centerfield was a $2 million, 474 foot long
scoreboard, homerun spectacular and display picture
board. The Astrodome also had five different
restaurants located throughout the stadium. Original
dimensions at the Astrodome were 340 ft. (left and
right), and 400 ft. (center).
The actual dome was 18
stories above the playing field and consisted of "Lucite" skylights
that were planned to allow the natural grass playing field to stay
alive. However, these translucent panels presented a problem. During
afternoon games outfielders were blinded by the sunlight. Thirty
percent of the panels were coated with paint to reduce the problem
but that caused another problem. The natural grass playing field
died because enough sunlight was not reaching it. A new type of turf
that became famous at stadiums throughout the country during the
1970s was developed. Named after the team, Astroturf was a green
surface of nylon grass.
The Astrodome looked the same until 1989.
That fall, the stadium underwent several changes.
In order to increase the capacity to 54,816, the grandstands were
extended into the outfield. The original scoreboard was replaced by
new video boards in the upper deck. Two manual scoreboards were
added as part of the outfield walls in both left and right fields.
By the mid 1990s, both the Astros and Oilers began to want new
stadiums. After failing to get funds for a new stadium, the Oilers
moved to Tennessee after the 1996 NFL season. However, the Astros
were able to get funds for a new stadium. The Astros remained at the Astrodome for
three more years, playing their last game at the Astrodome on
October 9, 1999. In 2000, the team moved into
Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. Today, the Astrodome
remains virtually idle as it sits in the shadow of the Houston
Texans (NFL) home,
Reliant Stadium. In June 2010, officials unveiled a $1.35
billion plan to renovate the Astrodome and convert it into a convention
and science center.
The property would feature a science
center, a planetarium, several museums and a conference center. A plan
should be approved by the end of 2010 with the help of a public
referendum to help choose the fate of the Astrodome.