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Astrodome

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203730pv Houston Astrodome.jpg

The Astrodome was the home of the Houston Astros from 1965 to 1999.

The dream of Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome helped usher in the era of cookie-cutter astroturf baseball stadiums of the 1970s. But it was also the first indoor, air-conditioned baseball stadium and saved local baseball fans from the brutal Houston summers and the more-brutal Houston mosquitoes. It was dubbed the eighth wonder of the world when it opened and was originally designed to have a natural grass field. However, the clear roof panels that let in the sunlight were making it next to impossible for outfielders to track the flight of the ball. The panels were painted, but in turn the grass died and had to be replaced by the first artificial turf surface ever used in Major League Baseball. Famously, Judge Hofheinz negotiated a deal to receive the experimental surface free of charge from the Monsanto Chemical Corporation in return for the right to have it named "Astroturf", a designation that endures to this day. It was also the first ballpark to have luxury sky boxes and had the largest scoreboard of its time, famous for its animation sequence triggered when the Astros hit a home run.

The Astrodome was notoriously favorable to pitchers, as batted balls did not travel well in the air-conditioned environment.

In addition to baseball games, the Astrodome was the home of the Houston Oilers of the NFL and a site for various and sundry major events, including gatherings led by evangelist Billy Graham, bullfights, rodeo shows, concerts - most famously the largest concert ever given by Elvis Presley -, college basketball games including the NCAA Final Four in 1971, motorbike shows and the famous "Battle of the sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs on September 20, 1973, in which Riggs was thoroughly defeated. One event it did not host, however, was the Super Bowl: when Houston played host to Super Bowl VIII in 1974, it was held at Rice Stadium, which had a larger seating capacity. Because of its modular nature and the fact it was conceived to host many different types of events, the Astrodome was not particularly well-suited to baseball, and after the excitement of its first few years passed, was the target of frequent criticism as a baseball venue.

During its period as a cultural landmark in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Astrodome was a frequent setting for movies and television shows. The most famous films set there, both of which have a baseball theme, are Brewster McCloud (1970) and The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977).

In September 2005, the Astrodome became a shelter for those evacuated from New Orleans, LA due to Hurricane Katrina.

Demolition of the now unused facility began on December 8, 2013, as the building was imploded, beginning with its exterior ramps. Contrary to the Seattle Kingdome, the second domed stadium to be used in the majors, the demolition process was gradual, and not subject to one large cathartic explosion.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Eric Robinson: "Movies, Bullfights, and Baseball, Too: A Sports Stadium Built for Spectacle First and Sports Second", in Cecilia Tan, ed.: Baseball in the Space Age: Houston since 1961, 'The National Pastime, SABR, 2014, pp. 10-17.
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