Reliant Astrodome

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".


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 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 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 affiliate, 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.

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.

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 Kingdome in Seattle, the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Hofheinz had an apartment for himself in the Dome, which was removed when the facility was remodeled in 1988.

Seating Capacity

The seating capacity for baseball went as the following: • 42,217 (1965) • 46,000 (1966-1967) • 44,500 (1968-1974) • 45,000 (1975-1981) • 47,690 (1982-1989) • 54,816 (1990-present)

The seating capacity for football went as the following: • 53,000 (1965-1989) • 62,439 (1990-present)

When the Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965, Judy Garland and The Supremes performed on opening night to a capacity crowd.

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. Two sections of panes were painted white, which solved the glare problem, but caused the grass to die from lack of sunlight. For most of the 1965 season, the Astros played on green-painted dirt and dead grass.

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 was not 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. 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 dirt, 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. 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, 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 baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was called when flooding in the Houston area prevented the umpires and most 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 both teams ate dinner together.

Although the Astros still had a home series with Pittsburgh in August, this game was made up in Pittsburgh in July.


The Houston 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 would feature a minute-long animated celebration of pistols, bulls, and fireworks. The scoreboard remained intact until 1988 when Astrodome part-time tenant Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams suggested the removal of the scoreboard to accommodate capacity demands for football, baseball and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Harris County spent $67 million of public funds on renovations. 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.

  • 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 later 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. Oiler's 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. Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built. 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. Selena y Los Dinos had 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 on March 31, 1995 by 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. The stadium is currently called the "lonely landmark" by Houstonians. Since 2008 when the facility was cited with numerous code violations only maintenance workers and security guards are allowed to enter the Astrodome. 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. 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. 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.

Plans to convert the Astrodome into a luxury hotel have also been rejected. A new proposal to convert the Astrodome into a movie production studio is currently under discussion. All renovation plans must deal with the problem of occupancy code violations that have basically shuttered the facility for the near future.

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 the New York Yankees. 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.
  • 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, a 35-year span. The first NCAA 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.
  • 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 a performance in the Astrodome on February 27, 1970. He would perform there again on March 3, 1974.
  • 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.
  • 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 the famous 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 hometown Astros lost an epic 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.)
  • Madonna performed at the Astrodome during her Who's That Girl World Tour on July 24, 1987, with Level 42 as her opening act.
  • 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.
  • Guns N' Roses & Metallica performed at the Astrodome during their co-headlining Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour on September 4, 1992, with Faith No More as their opening act.
  • On February 28, 1993, Tejano superstar Selena broke the Sunday matinee record attendance. This concert was attended by 57,894 fans.
  • Paul McCartney performed at the Astrodome during The New World Tour on April 22, 1993.
  • On February 26, 1995, little more than a month before her murder, Selena broke the attendance record for the 3rd year in a row. This concert had 66,746 fans in attendance.
  • On October 3, 1999, the Astros played their final regular season game at the Astrodome, and clinched 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.
  • On April 1, 2001 professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) (then known as WWF, the World Wrestling Federation) hosted WrestleMania X-Seven. The event had a record breaking attendance of 67,925.
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. All scheduled events for the final four months of 2005 at the Astrodome were cancelled. 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 refugee community.

The entire Reliant Park complex was scheduled to be emptied of huricane refugees by September 17, 2005. Originally the Astrodome was planned to be used to house refugees until December. However, the surrounding parking lots were needed for the first Houston Texans home game. Arrangements were made to help Katrina refugees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005 the last of the huricane refugees 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 Katrina refugees were relocated to Arkansas due to Hurricane Rita.


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