This week we visit the great state of Texas and one of the only mid-century designed domed stadiums surviving today, the Houston Astrodome or the NRG Astrodome as it is known today.
Construction on the stadium began in 1962, and it officially opened in 1965, serving as home field for the Houston Astros Major League Baseball franchise and the Houston Oilers NFL franchise. Interestingly, the NBA Houston Rockets also used the venue as a home court on a part time basis between 1971 and 1975. When it opened in ’65 it was nicknamed the eighth wonder of the world.
After the original natural grass playing surface died, as grass does without sunlight, the Astrodome became the first major sports venue to install artificial turf, which became known as AstroTurf. In another technological first, the Astrodome featured the “Astrolite”, developed by a Des Moines Iowa company, it was the first animated scoreboard in the country.
Despite a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 1988, the Astrodome was becoming obsolete by the mid 1990’s. The NFL, Oilers moved to Tennessee after the 1996 season, where they eventually became the Tennessee Titans. The Astros played at the dome through the 1999 season, before relocating to Enron Field (later changed to Minute Maid Park) in 2000.
Despite the fact the stadium had no full time tenants, it continued to host events during the 2000’s up through 2005 when it was used as a shelter facility for Hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans. Thre years later the Houston Fire Department declared the facility non-compliant in terms of fire code and parts of the venerable stadium were demolished. Six yeas ago in 2014, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
New York Yankee Mickey Mantle had the honor of hitting the first home run in the Astrodome during the opening game of the 1965 season and for the facility itself. At the beginning of the 1980 playoff series between the Astros and the Phillies, Astroman was introduced to baseball fans everywhere. As part of a promotional stunt with a local radio station, Astroman would literally live on top of the stadium in a six-man tent until the Astros won the series. It was a short term stay, relatively speaking as the Phillies went on to beat the Astros in the playoffs and advance to the World Series where, as we all know, beat the Kansas City Royals, thank you Tug McGraw, to win the Series.
The Astrodome still stands today, well, most of it anyway. The Astrodome was designated as a state antiquities landmark in 2017 and on May 29, 2018, it received a Texas State Historical Marker from the Texas State Historical Commission.