The AstroDome: One of America’s Favorite Architectures

Any sports fan that ever heard the word “Astrodome” – knew exactly what and where it was. Commonly known as the Houston Astrodome, this was notably the first stadium build for multi-sports purpose. The grand opening in 1965, displayed the domed façade and it quickly became known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Judy Garland as well as the famed super group “The Supremes” were the highlight of performance in the opening night.

The design was based on a rain-out game attended by the former mayor of Houston. Inspired by the ancient Roman concept to offer a velaria to protect the viewers, he changed his project direction and began working on getting a domed stadium in place.

In the 60’s the games that were held at the Astrodome became legendary. Its ability to offer baseball and football with movable seating areas in the lower stadium was inspirational to the building of other stadiums in the country with similar dome structures.

In an effort to keep-up-with-the-times, the original Bermuda grass was replaced with a type of hybrid grass designed specifically for indoor stadium use. The problems with the Lucite dome ceiling panes were a constant complaint by the players, as it caused intense glare. This was resolved when the decision was made to paint some of the panes white. Sadly, this decision also caused some of the grass to die. Until something was done, the 1965 season had dirt that was painted green (to emulate grass) and the rest of the field was simply dead grass. An artificial turf called ChemGrass, eventually called AstroTurf was installed in 1966. Since there wasn’t enough of the grass, only the outfield was filled. Final installation of the AstroTurf was completed in 1970.

One of the main highlights of attending a game at The Houston Astrodome was the “Astrolite”. A scoreboard of incredible four-story height made of thousands of light bulbs. At that time, the animation displayed was akin to feature films and the fans were enthralled with the entertainment.

In the 80’s the Americans with Disabilities Act required the Dome to have additional ramp columns installed. The Astrodome held the Republican National Convention in 1992. Other notable moments of The Dome included Micky Mantle hitting the first home run in 1965. Brewster McCloud comedy of 1970 had the setting of The Astrodome. Elvis Presley performed there in 1970 and 1974. Other concerts included: The Rolling Stones, The Jacksons, Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Selena, Paul McCartney, and Pink Floyd.

The 1995 game between the San Diego Charges and the Oilers finally had to be cancelled when it was discovered that The Dome was just in too bad of condition. Plans began to be made for a new stadium, eventually called Enron Field that opened in Houston in 2000. When Hurricane Katrina threatened the area in 2005, there was a combination effort between the State of Louisiana and the Harris County Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management to allow those fleeing from Katrina’s wake to be sheltered at The Astrodome. In her final years, The Dome proved to be an answer to those in need.

Since Houston refuses to give up The Astrodome, it is currently being retrofitted to accommodate and be used as a stadium in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. The original renovations plans to convert it to a hotel have been canned. The new Reliant Stadium, built not too far away will be home of the NFL Team, but Houston will keep one of America’s Favorite Architectures as long as they can.

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