For me and the Astrodome, it always seems to be too little too late. I never made it to see a baseball game there, and I didn’t know it was danger of being voted out of existence. Yesterday, Houston voters voted against a referendum that would have provided $217 million to turn it into a convention and exhibition center. It is now up to the county commissioners to decide what to do with it, but it doesn’t look good.
The Dallas Morning News called the Astrodome “a monument to America’s boldness and optimism.” Apparently, several organizations lobbied to save the historic stadium. In fact, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Astrodome to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in June. Despite these efforts, some of us still did not know about the imminent threat.
- As noted by the Texas State Historical Association, It was the first “fully air-conditioned, enclosed, domed, multipurpose sports stadium in the world.”
- The first baseball game played there was on April 9, 1965, an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. The first home run hit in the Astrodome was hit by Mickey Mantle during that game. The Astros played their last game there on October 9, 1999.
- The first football game played there was on September 11, 1965, between Tulsa University and the University of Houston.
- The first musical artists to perform there were The Supremes. They were the opening act for Judy Garland on December 17, 1965.
- It was the site of the first prime time nationally televised college basketball game in 1968.
- Elmo Wright invented the end-zone dance there in 1969.
- In the 1970s, it was the site for two movies, Brewster McCloud and The Bad News Bears.
- Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs competed there in tennis’ Battle of the Sexes in 1973.
- The Republican national convention was held there in 1992.
- It was the site of Tejano superstar Selena’s last televised performance, February 26, 1995.
- Rock band U2 filmed their music video for the song “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” in the Astrodome in 2001.
- In 2005, the Astrodome housed people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
- Those who performed there included: Bob Dylan, the Who, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, and Evel Knievel.
The place is a sports and pop culture icon. As the New York Times stated, “Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.” The Los Angeles Times also states the case for saving the Astrodome quite well: “There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome. Widely copied after it opened in 1965, it perfectly embodies postwar U.S. culture in its brash combination of Space Age glamour, broad-shouldered scale and total climate control.”
Isn’t there anything we can do to save the Eighth Wonder of the World?