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Houston Astrodome
The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World, House of Pain[1]
Reliant Astrodome logo.png

Reliant Astrodome.jpg
Former names Harris County Domed Stadium (1965)
Houston Astrodome (1965-2000)
Location 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054
Coordinates 29°41′6″N 95°24′28″W / 29.685°N 95.40778°W / 29.685; -95.40778Coordinates: 29°41′6″N 95°24′28″W / 29.685°N 95.40778°W / 29.685; -95.40778
Broke ground January 3, 1962
Opened April 9, 1965
Closed December 21, 1996 (NFL)
October 9, 1999 (MLB)
2003 (rodeo)
2004 (official)
Owner Harris County, Texas
Operator Astrodome USA
Surface Grass (1965)
Painted Dirt (1965)
Astroturf (1966-present)
Construction cost $35 million USD
Architect Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Capacity Football: 62,439
Baseball: 54,816
Professional Boxing and Professional Wrestling: 67,925
Field dimensions Original
Left field - 340 feet (104 m)
Left Center Field - 375 feet (114 m)
Center field - 406 feet (124 m)
Right Center Field - 375 feet (114 m)
Right field - 340 feet (104 m)
Backstop - 60.5 feet (18 m)

Left field - 325 feet (99 m)
Left Center Field - 375 feet (114 m)
Center field - 400 feet (122 m)
Right Center Field - 375 feet (114 m)
Right field - 325 feet (99 m)
Backstop - 52 feet (16 m)
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)
Final Four (NCAA) (1971)
Wrestlemania X7 (WWE) (2001)

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. 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".[2]





Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1962 with the Houston Colt .45s, who were in 1965 renamed the Houston Astros. Roy Hofheinz 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 scorching Texas summers. Game-time temperatures are usually well above 95 degrees in July and August, and the humidity makes it feel even more oppressive. Additionally, rain is very common in the summer.

Several baseball franchises had toyed with the idea of building enclosed, air-conditioned stadiums. 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 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. They shared a passion for baseball, and disappointed about time cut short with her Dad, Dene asked "Why can't we play baseball inside?" Hofheinz abandoned his interest in the world's first air-conditioned shopping mall, The Galleria, and immediately set his sights on bringing major league baseball to his beloved city, where he had previously 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.

Astrodome Skylights

The multi-purpose stadium, designed to facilitate both football and baseball, is nearly circular and uses movable lower seating areas. Similar approaches were borrowed in the construction of a number of subsequent stadiums, including those in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Montreal, and Pittsburgh. 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.

Hofheinz even had a gaudily designed apartment for himself in the Dome, which was removed when the facility was remodeled in 1988.[3]

Initial opening and fielding surface

When the Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965, it used a natural 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 impossible 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. Judy Garland and The Supremes performed on opening night to a capacity crowd. 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. Groundskeepers dressed as astronauts kept the turf clean with vacuum cleaners between innings. The infield dirt remained in the traditional design, with a large dirt arc, similar to natural grass fields. Hofheinz reportedly wasn't too concerned with the death of the grass, since the ambitious schedule he'd planned for the Astrodome required a more durable surface.

In 1971, the Astros installed an all-AstroTurf infield, except for dirt cutouts around the bases. This "sliding pit" configuration was first introduced by Cincinnati with the opening of Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970. It was then installed in the new stadiums in 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.

Throughout its history, the Astrodome was known as a pitcher's park. The power alleys were never shorter than 370 feet (110 m) from the plate; on at least two occasions they were as far as 390 feet (120 m). Over time, it gave up fewer home runs than any other park in the National League.[4] The Astrodome's reputation as a pitcher's park continued even in the mid-1980s, when the fences were moved in closer than the Metrodome.

It was also known for its unusual ground rules. For example, if a ball hit one of the speakers located in foul territory and a fielder caught it, it was an out. Mike Schmidt once hit a towering fly ball that was ruled just a long single after hitting a speaker suspended above the playing field in June 1974. He later said that in most other parks, it would have easily been a 500-foot (150 m) home run.[4]

June 15, 1976 "The Rainout"

Ironically, given the fact that it is an indoor stadium, the Astrodome suffered a rainout on June 15, 1976. The Astros' scheduled baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was called when massive flooding in the Houston area prevented the umpires and all but a few fans from reaching the stadium. Both teams had arrived early for practice but, with no umps, the game was called off. Tables were brought onto the field and both teams shared their clubhouse meal with the few fans who braved the flood to arrive at the stadium.


The Houston Astrodome was well-renowned for a four-story scoreboard called the "Astrolite", composed of thousands of light bulbs that featured numerous comical 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 Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams supported by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, threatened to move the franchise to Jacksonville, Florida unless stadium seating capacity was expanded to accommodate capacity demands for football. (Jacksonville won an NFL expansion franchise in 1995, and Adams eventually moved the team to Tennessee.) The city buckled to his demands, and Harris County spent $67 million of public funds on renovations.[5] The scoreboard was removed and 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.

Recent history

Astrodome interior in 2004

The 1992 Republican National Convention was held at the Astrodome in August of that year. The Astros accommodated the convention by taking a month-long road trip.

The Astrodome began to show its age by the 1990s. 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. 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) opened for the 2000 season in downtown Houston.

One of the largest crowds in the Astrodome's history, more than 66,746 fans, came on Sunday, February 26, 1995, to see Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and her band Los Dinos perform for a sell-out crowd during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Selena y Los Dinos had performed two consecutive times before at the Astrodome, breaking previous attendance records each time. The concert showcased her latest album, Amor Prohibido, released in 1994. Her 1995 performance became historic as it was Selena's last televised concert before she was shot to death on March 31, 1995, at the hands of her fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar. This would be the Astrodome's largest crowd until WWF WrestleMania X-Seven was held at the Astrodome on April 1, 2001, establishing a new all-time and current 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. Since 2008 when the facility was cited with numerous code violations only maintenance workers and security guards are allowed to enter the Astrodome.[6] Although some Houstonians want the Astrodome demolished, 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 Summer Olympic Games included renovating the Astrodome for use as a main stadium.[7] 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 134th 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.[8]

According to media outlets in Houston, plans to convert the Astrodome into a luxury hotel have been scrapped. A new proposal to convert the Astrodome into a movie production studio is currently under discussion.[9][10] However all such plans must deal with the problem of occupancy code violations that have basically shuttered the facility for the near future.[11]

Teams and notable events

Hurricane Katrina

Survivors of Katrina in the Astrodome

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.[14] Overflow evacuees were held in the surrounding Reliant Park complex. There was a full field hospital inside the Reliant Arena, which cared for the entire evacuee community.

Camp New Orleans

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.

See also


External links

Simple English

Reliant Astrodome
The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World
Former names The Astrodome
Harris County Domed Stadium
Location 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054 U.S.
Broke ground January 3, 1962
Opened April 12, 1965
Closed December 21, 1996 (NFL)
October 9, 1999 (MLB)
2003 (rodeo) 2004 (official)
Demolished N/A
Owner Harris County
Operator Astrodome USA
Surface Grass (1965)
Astroturf (1966–present)
Construction cost $35 million USD
Architect Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Capacity 62,439 Football
54,816 Baseball
Houston Oilers (NFL) 19681997
Houston Astros (MLB) (1965-1999)
Houston Gamblers (USFL) (1984-1985)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (1966-2003)

The Reliant Astrodome, which was called "the Astrodome", is a domed sports stadium. The Astrodome was the first of its type built. It is located in Houston, Texas. It is a part of the Reliant Park complex. The building opened in 1965. At that time, it was named the Harris County Domed Stadium. It was also called the "Eighth Wonder of the World". [1]

Reliant Energy bought the right to name the building in 2000.


Hurricane Katrina

In August and September 2005, the Astrodome was a shelter for Hurricane Katrina Survivors.

Teams and notable events

  • The first home run in the Astrodome was by Mickey Mantle. The pitcher was Turk Farrell. This was on April 9, 1965 in a game between the Astros and the New York Yankees.[2] The first official home run was hit by Richie Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies in a game on April 12th of that year a 2-0 Astros loss.[3]
  • Robert Altman's 1970 show Brewster McCloud was set at the Astrodome.
  • The 1986 National League Championship Series ended at that time as the longest post-season game in history. The hometown Astros lost a 16-inning Game 6 to the New York Mets, 5—3.
  • The Game of the Century between the University of Houston Cougars and the UCLA Bruins took place at the Astrodome in 1968. It was the first NCAA regular season game broadcast nationwide in prime time. This made college basketball, as a sports value on television. This and paved the way for the modern "March Madness" television coverage.
  • The dome hosted the WWF's WrestleMania event called WrestleMania X-Seven, which is considered by most, the end of the Attitude Era.


Other websites

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