Reliant Astrodome in Houston

Photo of Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Reliant Astrodome
Official name:The Harris County Domed Stadium
Formerly:The Astrodome

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The Astrodome represents everything that has made both Houston and Texas great. It is a building of mammoth proportion that many said couldn't be built, but was pushed through by one man. That man was Judge Roy Hofheinz. He was one of a number of businessmen desparate to bring a baseball team to Houston. But the Bayou City can suffer through weeks of 110-degree weather in the summer. Any national team trying to play in those conditions was surely doomed. So a plan was hatched to create an air conditioned stadium.

To make it palatable to the voters who would pay for it, the Astrodome had to be owned by the county, and used for events other than baseball. The voters loved the idea, and approved two bond measures totaling $42,000,000.00 to pay for the project. Houston got its team -- the Colt .45's who played in a temporary stadium in what is now the grounds of Reliant Park. By the time the domed stadium was complete the United States was entrenched in the space race, and NASA had located its headquarters nearby. That was enough to rename the team the "Astros" and the Harris County Domed Stadium became known as the "Astrodome."

The dome is 218-feet tall, and was designed to seat up to 100,000 people depending on the type of event being held. The old scoreboard was torn down by the county in 1989, but is still remembered for its mammoth proportions -- 474 feet long and four stories tall. As with any new project of this scale there were bound to be setbacks. Players complained that they couldn't see fly balls against the clear panes of the 624-foot-wide roof. So the roof was painted to keep the sunlight out. That caused the grass to die, and thus a carpet called Astroturf was born out of necessity.

Today the Astros have left their plastic field of dreams. They now reside at Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, which is also a covered stadium, but this time with real grass. Still, the Astrodome lives on as a vital part of the community every bit as important to Houstonians as Yankee Stadium is to New Yorkers. With the addition of the Astrohall and other adjacent venues the complex now known as the Astrodomain hosts over 300 events a year. The big one for the 'dome, however is the same event that has been the biggest deal in Houston for decades: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Quick Facts
    > The location off the Astrodome was chosen, in part, because of its access to freeways at a time when Americans were enamored with personal automobiles.
    > The Astrodome was the first stadium with skyboxes.
    > The Astrodome was the first stadium with a scoreboard that shot off fireworks.
    > 20 February, 2004 - Preservation Texas names this building one of the 13 most endangered in the state.
    > 31 August, 2005 - It is announced that 30,000 refugees from Hurricane Katrina living in squalid conditions at the battered Louisiana Superdome will be transferred to Houston's Astrodome.
    >20 September, 2005 - The last of the Katrina refugees leave the Astrodome. It served as a temporary shelter for 27,000 people.
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