Yesterday, the Texas Historical Commmission voted in favor of the Houston Astrodome to designate the stadium as a State Antiquities Landmark, joining the ranks of the Alamo, the State Capitol, the Cotton Bowl and other notable sites.
Like we all know, the Astrodome was the home of the Houston Astros from its opening in 1965 through the 1999 season, after which the Astros moved into their current home, Enron Field, now named Minute Maid Park.
The Astrodome was the world’s first multi use stadium that served as the home of the Astros and the Houston Oilers. Originally the roof would be translucent. A special kind of grass was bred to grow indoors. But the players complained about the glare of the roof, so certain parts were painted white.Thanks to this white painted roof, the natural turf died, so the designers had to think of something else. This would be the birth of artificial turf or AstroTurf. But before the stadium fully installed the AstroTurf, the Astros played parts of two seasons on dirt that was painted green.
Compared to today’s stadiums that coused headaches because contractors are not able to finish them in time, the construction of the Astrodome was finished six months ahead of schedule, in November 1964.
Because it was a unique structure the Astrodome was also called the Eighth Wonder of the World.” Next to the firsts of being the first domed stadium and the first stadium with artificial turf, the Astrodome also was the first to have an animated scoreboard, called Astrolite.
During the first game at the Astrodome, an exhibition game between the Astros and the Yankees, Mickey Mantle collected the first hit and the first homerun in the stadium. Pitcher Satchel Paige said the Astrodome was a “pitcher’s paradise”, as the lack of wind allowed for sensitive pitches to maneuver more easily.
It may sound odd, but the Astrodome suffered a rainout once. On June15, 1976, heavy rainfall caused a massive flooding in the Houston Area, that prevented fans from coming to the stadium. At 5 PM 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.
The vote to designate the Astro Dome as a State Antiquitiesl Landmark was a unanimous one. But despite the status of landmark, there will be some alterations done to the ballpark. The stadium floor will be raised to ground level so two floors of parking can be added.
It is not clear what the Astrodome will be used for. In the recent past, some rodeos were held there.
It seems stange to me that a structure that is “only” 52 years old can be safed from demoliton, while older ballparks like Tiger Stadium and (the original) Comiskey Park couldn’t be saved from the wrecking ball.
Still is a good thing that a piece of baseball history is saved. After all, the Astrodome has changed the the world of sports forever. Domed stadiums are a common thing nowadays.