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Houston Astrodome

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Houston Astrodome

This article is about the stadium in Houston, Texas. For aeronautical use, see Astrodome (aviation).
Reliant Astrodome
The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World, House of Pain[1]
Former names Harris County Domed Stadium (1965)
Houston Astrodome (1965–2000)
Location 8400 Kirby Drive
Houston, Texas 77054

29°41′6″N 95°24′28″W / 29.68500°N 95.40778°W / 29.68500; -95.40778Coordinates: 29°41′6″N 95°24′28″W / 29.68500°N 95.40778°W / 29.68500; -95.40778

Broke ground January 3, 1962
Opened April 9, 1965
Closed December 21, 1996 (NFL)
October 9, 1999 (MLB)
2003 (rodeo)
2006 (official)
Owner Harris County, Texas
Operator Astrodome USA
Surface Grass (1965)
Painted Dirt (1965)
Astroturf (1966–present)
Construction cost $35 million
($262 million in 2014 dollars[2])
Architect Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan
Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Structural engineer Walter P Moore
General contractor H.A. Lott, Inc.[3]
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 Astros (MLB) (1965–99)
Houston Oilers (AFL/NFL) (1968–97)
Houston Stars (USA, NASL) (1967–68)
Houston Cougars (NCAA) (1965–97)
Houston Gamblers (USFL) (1984–85)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (1966–2003)
Houston Energy (WPFL) (2002–06)
Houston Texans (WFL) (1974)
Houston Hurricane (NASL) (1978–80)
Bluebonnet Bowl (NCAA) (1968–84, 1987)
Houston Bowl (NCAA) (2000–01)

Reliant Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is the world's first multi-purpose, 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".[4] In 2001, it hosted WWE (then known as WWF) WrestleMania X-Seven, which set an all-time record attendance for the Reliant Astrodome of 67,925.



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 became 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 team, 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.[5] The Astrodome was later designed by architects Hermon Lloyd & 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.[6]

The Dome was completed in November 1964, six months ahead of schedule.[7] 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 Houston mechanical engineers Israel A. Naman and Jack Boyd Buckley of I.A.Naman+ Associates.

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 now-demolished Kingdome in Seattle, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, and the now-demolished RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Hofheinz had an opulent apartment in the Dome, which was removed when the facility was remodeled in 1988.[8]

Seating capacity

The seating capacity for baseball has been as follows:

  • 42,217 (1965)
  • 46,000 (1966–1967)
  • 44,500 (1968–1974)
  • 45,101 (1975–1981)
  • 47,690 (1982–1989)
  • 54,816 (1990–present)

The seating capacity for football has been as follows:

  • 50,000 (1965–1983)
  • 50,495 (1984–1986)[9]
  • 50,594 (1987–1989)[10]
  • 62,439 (1990–1991)
  • 62,021 (1992–1994)[11]
  • 59,969 (1995–present)[12]

Initial opening

On Opening Day, April 9, 1965, a sold-out crowd of 47,879 watched an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird were in attendance, as well as Texas Governor John Connally and Houston Mayor Louie Welch. Governor Connally tossed out the first ball for the first game ever played indoors. Dick "Turk" Farrell of the Astros threw the first pitch. Mickey Mantle had both the first hit (a single) and the first home run in the Astrodome. The Astros beat the Yankees that night, 2-1.

President Johnson arrived to pay his respects to baseball and Astros President Roy Hofheinz, a campaign manager for Johnson in the 1940s, just as the second inning got underway; the President stopping at the Astrodome that evening en route to his home in Johnson City. He and Lady Bird watched the opening night game from behind the glass in Judge Hofheinz' private box high in right field just to the right of the giant scoreboard. LBJ ate hors d'ouerves and chicken and ice cream while watching the game. "Roy, I want to congratulate you; it shows so much imagination," he was heard to say. Later, he called the stadium "massive" and "beautiful." Although the President's visit overshadowed all others, dignitaries swarmed through the "Eighth Wonder of the World" during the three days of the exhibition series and for opening night against the Phillies.[13][14]

The first artist to play the Astrodome was Judy Garland on December 17, 1965, where she was paid $43,000 for the one show. The Supremes were her opening act and tickets were priced $1.00 to $7.50. The dome seated 48,000, with another 12,000 seats added for this show. Garland appeared on stage at 10pm and sang for 40 minutes, with her set of songs including: "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands"; "Just In Time"; "My Kind Of Town, Houston Is"/"Houston"; "As Long As He Needs Me"; "Joey, Joey, Joey"; "Do It Again"; "What Now My Love?"; "By Myself"; "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby"; "San Francisco"; "Chicago"; and "Over The Rainbow." Mort Lindsey conducted.[15]

Fielding surface

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. To solve the problem, two sections of panes were painted white. However, within a few months, the grass died from lack of sunlight.[16] For most of the 1965 season, the Astros played on green-painted dirt and dead grass. The clear panels also added a problem when combined with the natural grass. The grass tended to hold, then release moisture, often resulting in rain within the structure, causing games to be delayed while the grounds crews cleaned up the playing surface.

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 at the start of the season. There was not enough for the entire outfield, so the first phase covered only the traditional grass portion of the infield and foul territory,[17] at a cost of $2 per square foot. It was installed in time to test out during exhibition games against the Dodgers in March.[18][19][20] The outfield remained painted dirt until after the 1966 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 for a game with the Phillies.[21] 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.

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 also changed 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 (113 m) from the plate; on at least two occasions they were as far as 390 feet (119 m). Over time, it gave up fewer home runs than any other park in the National League.[5] 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, which was long reckoned as a hitter's park.

June 15, 1976 "The Rainout"

Ironically given the fact that it is an indoor stadium, and even more so because a new roof was installed before the 1976 season, the Astrodome suffered a rainout on June 15, 1976. The Astros' scheduled game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was called when massive flooding in the Houston area prevented all but a few fans from reaching the stadium. Both teams had arrived early for practice, but the umpires were several hours late. At 5pm that day, with only a handful of fans on-hand and already several hours behind, the umpires and teams agreed to call the game off. Tables were brought onto the field and the teams ate dinner together.[22] Although the Astros still had a home series with Pittsburgh in August, this game was made up in Pittsburgh in July.


The 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 featured a minute-long animated celebration of pistols, bulls, and fireworks. The scoreboard remained intact until 1988 when Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) owner Bud Adams suggested the removal of the scoreboard to accommodate increased capacity demands for football, baseball and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Harris County spent $67 million of public funds on renovations.[23] Approximately 15,000 new seats resembling the 1970s rainbow 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.


  • The Houston Astrodome was the opening event for the AMA Grand National Championship for 18 years, beginning in 1968.
  • The events held were Short Track and TT
  • The Astrodome also hosted an AMA Supercross event from 1974–2002. The first Astrodome Supercross winner was Jim Pomeroy.
  • The Houston Supercross event has been moved to Reliant Stadium.

Recent history

In 1989, four cylindrical pedestrian ramp columns were constructed outside the Dome for accessibility. This enabled the Astrodome to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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.

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. Oilers 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.[24] Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built.[24] 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 and her band Los Dinos perform for a sell-out crowd during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.[25] Selena y Los Dinos performed two consecutive times before at the Astrodome, breaking previous attendance records each time. This was Selena's last televised concert before she was fatally shot in March 1995.

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.[26] The facility was cited for numerous code violations in 2008. Since then, only maintenance workers and security guards have been allowed to enter the stadium while it is brought up to code.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] Houston became one of the USOC's bid finalists, but the organization chose New York City as its candidate city and the Games were ultimately 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.[30]

Plans to convert the Astrodome into a luxury hotel have also been rejected.[31] A new proposal to convert the Astrodome into a movie production studio is currently under discussion.[32] All renovation plans must deal with the problem of occupancy code violations that have basically shuttered the facility for the near future.[33] In 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the Astrodome on their annual list of 11 most endangered historic places.[34]

Teams and notable events

  • The first home run in the Astrodome was hit by Mickey Mantle off of pitcher Turk Farrell on April 9, 1965 in an exhibition game between the Astros and Yankees.[35] The first official home run was hit by Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies in a game on April 12 of that year – a 2–0 Astros loss.[36]
  • The Game of the Century between the University of Houston Cougars and the UCLA Bruins took place at the Astrodome in 1968 before a crowd of 52,963 — the record for the largest attendance ever at a basketball game until 2003. The first National Collegiate Athletic Association regular season game broadcast nationwide in prime time, the Game of the Century established college basketball as a sports commodity on television, and paved the way for the modern "March Madness" television coverage. The Cougars, coached by Guy V. Lewis, defeated coach John Wooden's Bruins, led by Lew Alcindor, 71-69 behind a 39 point scoring effort from Elvin Hayes.
  • Robert Altman's 1970 comedy Brewster McCloud was set at the Astrodome: the eponymous hero is an eccentric young man who lives at the stadium.
  • Evel Knievel jumped 13 cars two nights in a row, drawing over 100,000 spectators to the Astrodome in January 1971, and though there was talk of him making an actual jump over the stadium itself sometime in the future, it never happened.
  • Three-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali fought Cleveland Williams in the Astrodome in November 1966.
  • The Astro Spiral car jump was performed January 12, 1972 - which later was performed in the James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun.
  • Elvis Presley gave six performances there between February and March 1970, setting an attendance record with 200,000 over the six shows. He performed there again on March 3, 1974, setting a single day attendance record.
  • The Battle of the Sexes tennis match occurred on September 20, 1973, with Billie Jean King defeating Bobby Riggs in three straight sets. While more of a publicity stunt than a serious match, it made national headlines and stands as a milestone in the progress of women's sports.
  • KTRK-TV Channel 13 Eyewitness News anchorman Dave Ward was injured during a motocross exhibition race (which also included Channel 13 sports anchor Bob Allen, as well as other local media figures) in the Astrodome in the early 1970s.
  • The Astrodome hosted The Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, headed by Bob Dylan, on January 25, 1976.
  • The Astrodome was the setting for the filming of an exhibition game with the fictional Houston Toros in the 1977 movie The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.
  • The Rolling Stones performed, on two consecutive nights, at the Astrodome during their 1981 North American Tour on October 28–29, 1981, during their Steel Wheels Tour on November 8, 1989, during their Voodoo Lounge Tour on November 13, 1994.
  • The Jacksons performed, on two consecutive nights, at the Astrodome during their Victory Tour on November 9–10, 1984.
  • The 1986 National League Championship Series ended with what at the time was the longest post-season game in history. The Astros lost a 16-inning Game 6 to the eventual World Series champion New York Mets, 7-6. (The record was surpassed at the new Minute Maid Park during the 2005 National League Division Series when the Astros won an 18-inning game against the Atlanta Braves. The contest featured Roger Clemens in relief for only the second time in his career.)
  • Pink Floyd performed at the Astrodome during their A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour on November 18, 1987.
  • The Astrodome hosted the 1989 NBA All-Star Game. Attendance was over 44,000 and Karl Malone won MVP honors.
  • Metallica and Guns N' Roses performed at the dome during their co-headlining Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour on September 4, 1992, with Faith No More as their opening act.
  • Tejano superstar Selena breaks attendance record at the Astrodome by drawing a crowd of exactly 57,894 fans. 1993.
  • Tejano superstar Selena sets another attendance record at the Astrodome by drawing another crowd of 60,081 fans, breaking her previous record. 1994.
  • Tejano superstar Selena holds famed Astrodome concert with over 67,000 fans, again, breaking her previous records. 1995.
  • On October 3, 1999, the Astros played their final regular season game at the Astrodome, clinching the Central Division title with a 9–4 win over the Dodgers. The final Astros game in the stadium occurred 6 days later when the Braves eliminated the Astros in Game 4 of the Division Series.
  • In 2001, U2 filmed the music video for "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" inside the Astrodome.
  • On April 1, 2001, the WWE, (then known as the WWF) hosted WrestleMania X-Seven, with a record-breaking attendance of 67,925.
  • At the beginning of the 1980 play off series between the Astros and the Phillies, KILT AM radio announced that the Astros number one fan “Astroman” would live on top of the Domed stadium and would not come down until the Astros won the World Series. Over the next 10 days Astroman, played by KILT salesman Denver Griffith lived on top of the Astrodome in a six man tent. On top of the Astrodome was also a telephone hot line back to KILT radio where Griffith as Astroman would give interviews throughout the day. Astroman was completely cut off and could only get food and drink by lowering a rope with a basket the 18 stories from the top of the Astrodome to the center of the playing field. At one point Griffith got so desperate for food and drink that his mother had to intervene and interrupt an Oilers practice so that the needed supplies could be delivered. Ever night a local TV station would sign off with a shot of Astroman on top of the Astrodome waving to a circling news chopper.

Hurricane Katrina

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, 2005. All scheduled events for the final four months of 2005 at the Astrodome were cancelled.[37] 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 evacuee community.

The entire Reliant Park complex was scheduled to be emptied of hurricane evacuees by September 17, 2005. 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 Katrina evacuees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005, the last of the hurricane evacuees living in the Astrodome had been moved out either to the neighboring Reliant Arena or to permanent housing north of Houston.[38] As of September 20, 2005, the remaining Katrina evacuees were relocated to Arkansas due to Hurricane Rita.[39]

Reconstructing and Renovation

In 2013 Houston decided to reconstruct the arena. Beginning on October 8 2013, the Astrodome would feature a science center, a planetarium, several museums and a conference center. A hotel and movie studios have also been mentioned as possibilities for the area, but those would come through private financing.

See also

Houston portal
Baseball portal
National Football League portal


External links

  • , April 12, 1965.
  • Sarnoff, Nancy. "Houston Chronicle. April 26, 2010.
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)
Events and tenants
Preceded by
Rice Stadium
Home of the
Houston Oilers

Succeeded by
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Preceded by
Colt Stadium
Home of the
Houston Astros

Succeeded by
Minute Maid Park
Preceded by
Rice Stadium
Home of the
Bluebonnet Bowl

Succeeded by
Rice Stadium
Preceded by
Cole Field House
Men's Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals Venue

Succeeded by
Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
Preceded by
Anaheim Stadium
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Host of the
MLB All-Star Game

Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Preceded by
Chicago Stadium
Host of the
NBA All-Star Game

Succeeded by
Miami Arena

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