- For the aeronautical use see: Astrodome (aviation)
|The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World|
|Location||8400 Kirby Drive|
Houston, Texas 77054
|Broke ground||January 3, 1962|
|Opened||April 12, 1965|
|Closed||December 21, 1996 (NFL) |
October 9, 1999 (MLB)
2003 (rodeo) 2004 (official)
|Owner||Harris County, Texas|
|Surface||Grass (1965) |
|Construction cost||$35 million USD|
|Architect||Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson|
|Former names||Harris County Domed Stadium (1965) |
The Astrodome (1965-2000)
|Houston Oilers (AFL/NFL) (1968-1997) |
Houston Astros (MLB) (1965-1999)
Houston Cougars (NCAA) (1965-1997)
Houston Gamblers (USFL) (1984-1985)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (1966-2003)
Houston Energy (WPFL) (2002-2006)
Houston Texans (WFL) (1974)
Houston Hurricane (NASL) (1978-1980)
Bluebonnet Bowl (NCAA) (1968-1984, 1987)
Houston Bowl (NCAA) (2000-2001)
1971 Final Four
|62,439 Football |
Reliant Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is a domed sports stadium, the first of its kind, located in Houston, Texas. The stadium is part of the Reliant Park complex. It opened in 1965 as Harris County Domed Stadium and was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World". 
Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1962 with the Houston Colt .45s, who were later renamed the Astros. Houston's unpredictable subtropical weather made outdoor baseball difficult for players and spectators alike. Several baseball franchises had toyed with the idea of building enclosed, air-conditioned stadiums. Former Houston Mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz claimed inspiration for what would eventually become the Astrodome when he was on a tour of Rome, where he learned that the builders of the ancient Colosseum installed giant velaria to shield spectators from the Roman sun.
The world's first domed stadium was conceived by Hofheinz as early as 1952 when his only daughter, Dene, and he were rained out once too often at Buff stadium ( the minor league stadium they frequented.) They shared a passion for baseball. The little girl, disappointed about time cut short with her Dad, asked, "Why can't we play baseball inside?" Hofheinz abandoned his interest in the first air-conditioned shopping mall, The Galleria in Houston and immediately set his sights on bringing major league baseball to his beloved city where he had served as mayor. He promised the National League perfect weather in order to secure a team. The Astrodome was later designed by architects Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan, and Wislon, Morris, Crain and Anderson. Structural engineering and structural design was performed by Walter P Moore Engineers and Consultants of Houston. It was constructed by H.A. Lott, Inc. for Harris County, Texas. It stands 18 stories tall, covering 9½ acres. The dome is 710 feet (216.4 m) in diameter and the ceiling is 208 feet (63.4 m) above the playing surface, which itself sits 25 feet (7.6 m) below street level. The Dome was completed in November 1964, six months ahead of schedule. Many engineering changes were required during construction, including the modest flattening of the supposed "hemispherical roof" to cope with environmentally-induced structural deformation and the use of a new paving process called "lime stabilization" to cope with changes in the chemistry of the soil. The air conditioning system was designed by the Houston civil engineer Jack Boyd Buckley (1926-2007).
The multi-purpose stadium, designed to facilitate both football and baseball, is nearly circular and uses movable lower seating areas. Similar approaches have been used in several other stadiums (Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh).
When the Astrodome opened, it used a natural Bermuda grass playing surface. The dome's ceiling contained numerous semitransparent plastic panes made of Lucite. Players quickly complained that glare coming off of the panes made it impossible for them to track fly balls, so all of the panes were painted over, which solved the glare problem but caused the grass to die from lack of sunlight. For most of the 1965 season, the Astros played on green-painted dirt and dead grass. As the 1966 season approached, there was the possibility of the team playing on an all dirt infield.
The solution was to install a new type of artificial grass on the field, ChemGrass, which became known as AstroTurf. Because the supply of AstroTurf was still low, only a limited amount was available for the home opener on April 18, 1966. There wasn't enough for the entire outfield, but there was enough to cover the traditional grass portion of the infield. The outfield remained painted dirt until after the All-Star Break. The team was sent on an extended road trip before the break, and on July 19, 1966, the installation of the outfield portion of AstroTurf was completed and ready for play. The infield dirt remained in the traditional design, with a large dirt arc, similar to natural grass fields. The "sliding pit" configuration, with dirt only around the bases, did not arrive in Houston until the mid 1970s. The sliding pits were introduced by Cincinnati with the opening of Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970. It was then installed in the new stadiums of Philadelphia in 1971, and Kansas City in 1973. The artificial turf fields of Pittsburgh and St. Louis were traditionally configured like the Astrodome, and would also change to sliding pits in the 1970s.
The Astrodome was well known for a four-story-tall scoreboard, composed of thousands of lightbulbs, that featured animations until its removal in the late 1980s. This loss was brought about by threats from Oilers owner Bud Adams to move his football team to Jacksonville, Florida unless stadium seating capacity was expanded. (Jacksonville won an NFL expansion franchise in 1995.) The city buckled to his demands. Harris County spent $67 million of public funds on renovations. The scoreboard was removed and approximately 15,000 new seats installed to bring total capacity over 60,000. On September 5, 1988, a final celebration took place to commemorate the legendary scoreboard. In 1989, four cylindrical columns were constructed outside the Dome, housing pedestrian ramps.
The 1992 Republican National Convention was held at the Astrodome in August of that year. The Astros accommodated the politicians by taking a month-long road trip.
The Astrodome began to show its age by the 1990s. Oilers owner Adams issued a new set of demands, this time for a completely new stadium, but the city of Houston refused to fund such a venture. After years of threats, Adams moved the team to Tennessee in 1996. Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built. Houstonians acquiesced this time, and the retractable-roofed Enron Field (now known as Minute Maid Park and 'The Juice Box') was erected in downtown Houston in 2000.
One of the largest crowds in the Astrodome's history took place on Sunday, February 26, 1995, when Tejano music superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and her band Los Dinos performed for a sell-out crowd during the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show at the Astrodome, attracting more than 66,746 fans. Selena y Los Dinos had performed 2 consecutive times before at the Astrodome. This was also to be Selena's final televised performance, as she was later shot to death on March 31, 1995 by her fan club president Yolanda Saldívar. This would be the Astrodome's largest crowd until WrestleMania X-Seven was held at the Astrodome on April 1 2001, establishing a new all-time record for the facility at 67,925 fans.
The Astrodome was joined by a new neighbor in 2002, the retractable-roofed Reliant Stadium, which was built to house Houston's new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved to the new venue in 2003, leaving the Astrodome without any major tenants. The last concert performed at the Astrodome was George Strait & the Ace in the Hole band. George would also perform at Reliant Stadium the following year. The stadium is currently called the "lonely landmark" by Houstonians because hardly any well-known events take place there. The historic facility now hosts occasional concerts and high school football games. Although some Houstonians want the Astrodome demolished by 2009 or 2010, to be replaced by a large parking lot for the other structures of Reliant Park, city council has rejected that plan for environmental reasons. They reasoned that demolition of the Dome might damage the dense development that today closely surrounds it. Being the world's first domed stadium, historic preservationists may also object to the landmark being demolished, although it is not yet included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Houston's plan to host the 2012 Olympic Games included renovating the Astrodome for use as an Olympic Stadium. Houston became one of the USOC's bid finalists, but the organization chose New York City as its candidate city; the Games ultimately were awarded to London by the IOC.
The Astrodome was ranked 134 in the "America's Favorite Architecture" poll commissioned by the American Institute of Architects, that ranked the top 150 favorite architectural projects in America as of 2007.
According to media outlets in Houston, the Astrodome will be renovated into a luxury hotel if approved by January 2009.
Teams and notable events
- In 1968, the AFL Houston Oilers moved into the Dome. Over the years, college basketball and football games, soccer matches, religious gatherings, and music concerts have been held at the stadium. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world's second largest rodeo event and one of the city's biggest annual events, was held at the Dome from 1966 until 2003.
- In 1968, No. 1 UCLA played No. 2 University of Houston before a crowd of 52,963 - the largest attendance ever for a basketball game. Houston defeated UCLA 71-69 behind a 39 point scoring effort from Elvin Hayes. Houston's victory in this game ended UCLA's 47-game winning streak. As a result, this particular matchup was deemed by many as the "Game of the Century".
- A major annual national midget car racing event called the Astro Grand Prix was held inside the stadium starting in 1969.
- Elvis Presley performed what was viewed at the time as comeback shows on the afternoon and evening at the Houston Astrodome on 27 February 1970. Two more shows followed on the 28th, two more followed on March 1. A closing press conference and banquet follow, and Elvis is presented an armload of recent gold record awards. The six shows attract 207,494 people and set records. There is speculation among the press and the public that Elvis might tour in concert for the first time since the fifties.
- The 1971 NCAA men's basketball Final Four was held at the Astrodome.
- On September 20, 1973, the Astrodome played host to one of the most talked-about events in sports history: "The Battle of the Sexes" tennis match which pitted female star Billie Jean King against former men's Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs. King defeated Riggs (who had taken on the role of a male chauvinist for the match) 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
- The 1968 and 1986 Major League Baseball All-Star Games were held here, as was the 1989 NBA All-Star Game.
- The World Football League's Houston Texans called the stadium home for part of the 1974 season.
- The Houston Gamblers of the USFL also played home games at the Astrodome.
- The Houston Hurricane of the NASL also played its home games at the Astrodome from 1978 to 1980.
- The Astrodome was also home to the University of Houston's football team until Robertson Stadium on campus was renovated in 1998.
- The Bluebonnet Bowl was played at the stadium from 1968 through 1984, and again in 1987.
- On September 4, 1992 Faith No More,Metallica,and Guns N' Roses played a concert as a part of their stadium tour at the Astrodome.
- The stadium was the site of Selena's famous last concert.
- The stadium was also home to the Houston Bowl (then known as the GalleryFurniture.com Bowl) in 2000 and 2001.
- The stadium was home to WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001.
- The first time a 360 degree barrel roll, as seen in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun was performed in the Astrodome.
- The Astrodome has been the venue for cricket matches in 2002 and 2005 (cancelled), and as of 2007, may do so in the future.
On August 31, 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Harris County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State of Louisiana came to an agreement to allow at least 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans, especially those that were sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome, to move to the Astrodome until they could return home. The evacuation began on September 1. All scheduled events for the final four months of 2005 at the Astrodome were cancelled. However, eventually officials declared that the Reliant Astrodome was full at 13,000 and could not accept additional hurricane evacuees from the disaster. Overflow evacuees were held in the surrounding Reliant Park complex including 3,000 at the Reliant Arena and 8,000 at the Reliant Center. No more evacuees were taken into the Astrodome. There was a full field hospital inside the Reliant Arena, which cared for the entire evacuee community.
The entire Reliant Park complex was scheduled to be emptied of evacuees by September 17, 2005. The Astrodome has no other current use, aside from a handful of conventions, and originally the Astrodome was planned to be used to house evacuees until December. However, the surrounding parking lots were needed for the first Houston Texans home game. Arrangements were made to help evacuees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005 the last of the evacuees living in the Astrodome had been moved out either to the neighboring Reliant Arena or to more permanent housing. As of September 20, 2005, the remaining evacuees were relocated to Arkansas due to Hurricane Rita.
- Barks, Joseph V. "Powering the (new and improved) 'Eighth Wonder of the World' ", Electrical Apparatus, November 2001. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- Fowler, Ed (1997). Loser Takes All - Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business. Longview Press, 8. 1563524325.
- Astrodome track-and-field proposal could give Houston a giant leg up. chron.com. Retrieved on 2007-06-13.
- "America's Favorite Architecture", Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- World Double-Wicket Tournament in Houston (23 July 2002).
- India, Pakistan to take part in double wicket tournament in US (6 July 2002).
- Organisers claim to have got the all clear: USA to stage Asia v Rest of the World.
- Asian XI v World XI, Houston: Visa problems lead to postponement of US matches (June 10, 2005).
- Deb K Das (15 March 2007). Stakeholders move in to fill void: Life continues despite suspension.
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