|Opened||April 9, 1965|
Reliant Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is the world's first domed sports stadium, located in Houston, Texas, USA. It opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium and was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World".
Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1960 when the National League agreed to add two teams. The Colt .45s (renamed the Houston Astros in 1965) were to begin play in 1962, along with their expansion brethren New York Mets. Roy Hofheinz, a former mayor of Houston and his group were granted the franchise after they promised to build a covered stadium. It was thought a covered stadium was a must for a major-league team to be viable in Houston due to the area's subtropical climate and hot summers. Game-time temperatures are usually above 97 degrees in July and August, with high humidity, and a likelihood of rain. 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 Astrodome was conceived by Hofheinz as early as 1952 when he and his daughter Dene were rained out once too often at Buffalo Stadium, home of Houston's minor league baseball affiliate, the Houston Buffs. Hofheinz abandoned his interest in the world's first air-conditioned shopping mall, The Galleria, and set his sights on bringing major league baseball to Houston.
The Astrodome was later designed by architects Hermon Lloyd and W.B. Morgan, and Wilson, 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 multi-purpose stadium, designed to facilitate both football and baseball, is nearly circular and uses movable lower seating areas. It also ushered in the era of other fully domed stadiums, such as the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, the Kingdome in Seattle, the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
Initial opening and fielding surfaceEdit
When the Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965, Judy Garland and The Supremes performed on opening night to a capacity crowd.
Originally, the stadium's surface was a Tifway 419 Bermuda grass playing surface specifically bred for indoor use. The dome's ceiling contained numerous semitransparent panes made of Lucite. Players quickly complained that glare coming off of the panes made it hard for them to track fly balls. Two sections of panes were painted white, which solved the glare problem, but caused the grass to die from lack of sunlight. For most of the 1965 Houston Astros season, the Astros played on green-painted dirt and dead grass.
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 was not enough for the entire outfield, but there was enough to cover the traditional grass portion of the infield. The outfield remained painted until after the 1966 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. 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.
The Houston Astrodome was well-renowned for a four-story scoreboard called the "Astrolite", composed of thousands of light bulbs that featured numerous animations. After every Astros home run, the scoreboard would feature a minute-long animated celebration of pistols, bulls, and fireworks. The scoreboard remained intact until 1988 when Astrodome part-time tenant Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams suggested the removal of the scoreboard to accommodate capacity demands for football, baseball and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Harris County spent $67 million of public funds on renovations. Approximately 15,000 new seats resembling the 1970s Rainbow Guts uniform pattern were installed to bring seating capacity to almost 60,000 for football. On September 5, 1988, a final celebration commemorating the scoreboard occurred prior to expansion renovations.
In 1989, four cylindrical pedestrian ramp columns were constructed outside the Dome for accessibility. This enabled the Astrodome to comply with the later Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The 1992 Republican National Convention was held at the Astrodome in August of that year. The 1992 Astros season accommodated the convention by taking a month-long road trip.
On August 19, 1995, a scheduled preseason game between the Oilers and the San Diego Chargers had to be canceled due to the dilapidated condition of the playing field. Oiler's owner Adams demanded a new stadium, but the city of Houston refused to fund it. 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. The retractable-roofed Enron Field (now known as Minute Maid Park) opened for the Astros 2000 season in downtown Houston.
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 and the Ace in the Hole band.
The stadium is currently called the "lonely landmark" by Houstonians. Since 2008 when the facility was cited with numerous code violations, only maintenance workers and security guards are allowed to enter the Astrodome. The city council has rejected demolition plans on environmental grounds, over concerns 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 included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Houston's plan to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games included renovating the Astrodome for use as a main 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. Plans to convert the Astrodome into a luxury hotel have also been rejected. A new proposal to convert the Astrodome into a movie production studio is currently under discussion. All renovation plans must deal with the problem of occupancy code violations that have basically shuttered the facility for the near future.
Abandonment by organization/final year in AstrodomeEdit
- Houston Texans (WFL) (1974)
- Houston Hurricane (NASL) (1980)
- Houston Gamblers (USFL) (1985)
- Bluebonnet Bowl (NCAA) (1987)
- Houston Cougars (NCAA) (1997)
- Houston Oilers (AFL/NFL) (1997)
- Houston Astros (MLB) (1999)
- Houston Bowl (NCAA) (2001)
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (2003)
- Houston Energy (WPFL) (2006)
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.<ref>ESPN – Superdome evacuation disrupted after shots fired – ESPN.</ref> Overflow refugees were held in the surrounding Reliant Park complex. There was a full field hospital inside the Reliant Arena, which cared for the entire Katrina refugee community.
The entire Reliant Park complex was scheduled to be emptied of hurricane refugees by September 17, 2005. Originally the Astrodome was planned to be used to house refugees until December. However, the surrounding parking lots were needed for the first Houston Texans home game. Arrangements were made to help Katrina refugees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005 the last of the hurricane refugees 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 Katrina refugees 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.
- ↑ Lowry, Phillip, 2005, Green Cathedrals
- ↑ Loser Takes All – Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business, Longview Press, page 8, 1997
- ↑ http://www.click2houston.com/news/16918767/detail.html
- ↑ Could Dome become Movie Studio? Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- ↑ Group wants to convert Astrodome into sound stage, movie studio
- ↑ 
- Smith, Liz. "Giltfinger's Golden Dome," Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1965.
- Sarnoff, Nancy. "The Astrodome: "Houston's Eiffel Tower"." Houston Chronicle. April 26, 2010.
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