Astrodome - Sports, theater and concert tickets

View down the 1st base line
Astrodome
Houston, Texas

Tenants: Houston Astros (NL; 1965-1999); Houston Oilers (NFL; 1965-96)
Opened: April 12, 1965
Last Astros game: October 9, 1999
Current status: Vacant
Surface: Tifway 419 Bermuda grass (1965); Astroturf (1966 to date)
Capacity: 42,217 (1965), 46,000 (1966), 44,500 (1968), 45,000 (1975), 47,690 (1982), 54,816 (1990, baseball); 62,439 (football).

Architects: Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Construction: H.A. Lott, Inc.
Owner: Harris County
Cost: $35 million (1965); $60 million (1989 expansion).

Houston Astros tickets:

Location: 8400 Kirby Drive. Center field (E), Fannin Street; third base (N), Old Spanish Trail; home plate (W), Kirby Drive; first base (S), South Loop Freeway/Interstate 610.

Dimensions: Foul lines: 340 (1965), 330 (1972), 340 (1977), 330 (1985), 325 (1992), 330 (1993), 325 (1994); power alleys: 375 (1965), 390 (1966), 378 (1972), 390 (1977), 378 (1985), 375 (1992), 380 (1993), 375 (1994); center field: 406 (1965), 400 (1972), 406 (1977), 400 (1985); apex of dome: 208; backstop: 60.5 (1965), 67 (1990), 52 (1993).

Fences: Left and right field: 16 (9 concrete below 3 wire, 2 concrete, and 2 wire plus railing, 1965), 12 (concrete, 1969), 10 (concrete, 1977), 10 (canvas, 1990), 19.5 (concrete, 1991), 10 (canvas, 1992); between foul poles and scoreboards: 8 (canvas, 1994); scoreboards: 16 (canvas, 1994); center field 12 (concrete, 1965), 10 (concrete, 1977), 10 (padded, 1990).

Billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World by Astros’ original owner, Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome was the first ballpark to have a roof over the playing field. It also boasted cushioned orange and red seats, 53 futuristic "Sky Boxes," and a $2-million scoreboard featuring home run extravaganzas, cartoons, and helpful instructions to fans. At first, the Astrodome had real grass. The first Astros game, an exhibition with the New York Yankees, demonstrated that the semitransparent cream-colored panels in the roof made fly balls too difficult to see. So, the ceiling tiles were painted, but the grass died. This led to the installation of plastic grass known as Astroturf. It was ready for Opening Day, 1966.

An 18-story building would fit inside its 710-foot diameter, its 9˝ acres of real estate, and its steel-beamed ceiling that rises 208 feet above the baseball diamond. The playing field is 25 feet below street level. To light up the field requires more electricity than is used by a city of 9,000 people, and the central air-conditioning has to circulate 2.5 million cubic feet of air a minute. The Astrodome was also the first stadium in the country to use separate Astroturfs for baseball and football, each housed in a storage pit in center field and rolled out on a cushion of air.

In the fall of 1989, a $60 million expansion project enlarged seating capacity in the Astrodome by extending the upper decks into the outfield and adding 66 new Sky Boxes on the Club Level. Two external pedestrian ramps were added to the structure. The floor, which had been dirt since the stadium first opened in 1965 was concreted and the Astroturf was replaced with a new Monsanto "Magic Carpet' system. The Astrodome scoreboard and home run spectacular were replaced by two Diamond Vision screens, a large matrix board, two auxiliary matrix boards and a game-in-progress board. Two manually operated, out-of-town scoreboards giving inning by inning scores of games in progress, were incorporated into the outfield wall in 1993.

The Oilers left for Tennessee in 1997, and the Astros moved into the retractable-roof Minute Maid Park to begin the 2000 baseball season. For a few years, the Astrodome still hosted the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, high school football playoff games and an other events. However, since the retractable-roof Reliant Stadium was built next door in 2002, the Astrodome has been relegated to hosting an occasional convention. It stands, almost completely unused, waiting for one of the many redevelopment proposals to gain traction. Meanwhile, maintenance of the vacant facility is estimated to cost over $1 million per year. In 2007, a proposal to convert the stadium into a luxury hotel made headlines in the local newspaper.

Aerial view of the Astrodome with old Colt Stadium
 
The Astrodome originally featured natural grass

Trivia:

  • Originally called Harris County Domed Stadium in 1965.
  • With the exception of Yankee Stadium’s Death Valley, the Astrodome had the most distant power alleys in the majors at 390 feet, until changed in 1985.
  • In its inaugural 1965 season, the Astrodome was the scene of a unique groundskeeping argument. The New York Mets claimed that the groundskeepers were "roofkeeping" as well by manipulating the air conditioning system so that the air currents helped the Astros’ longballs and hindered visitors’ homers.
  • Engineers claimed to have been able to make it snow inside the Astrodome because of the abundance of air conditioning capacity.
  • The first game ever played on Astroturf was against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, 1966.
  • Shoe-shine stands were located behind home plate in the lower deck.
  • On April 28, 1965, New York Mets announcer Lindsey Nelson broadcast a game from a gondola suspended from the apex of the dome.
  • On June 10, 1974, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt hit a public-address speaker 117 feet above and 329 feet distant from home plate-what would have been a 500-plus-foot homer ended up a single as the ball dropped in center field.
  • On June 15, 1976, a game was rained out because of flooding.
  • Built in the center of a flat, paved, 260-acre tract where 30,000 cars could be parked.
  • The old location of Colt Stadium (now rebuilt in Torreon, Mexico) is just northwest of the Astrodome; the Astrohall and the Astroarena were just south of the Astrodome.
  • Hosted the 1986 and 1968 All-Star games.
  • Served as temporary shelter in 2005 for thousands of New Orleans residents displaced by the flood caused by hurricane Katrina.

The original scoreboard spanned the outfield
 
The upper decks enclosed the field in 1989

Recommended Reading (bibliography):

  • The Houston Astrodome by Craig A. Doherty, Katherine M. Doherty and Nicole Bowman.
  • A Six-Gun Salute: An Illustrated History of the Houston Colt .45S, 1962-1964 by Robert Reed and Rusty Staub.
  • Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
  • The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic (Revised Edition) by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
  • City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks by Philip Bess.
  • Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark by Michael Gershman.
  • Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks by Philip J. Lowry.
  • Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter.
  • Roadside Baseball: A Guide to Baseball Shrines Across America by Chris Epting.
  • The Story of America's Classic Ballparks (VHS).
  • Modern Marvels - Domed Stadiums (VHS).

Astrodome seating diagram Colt StadiumMinute Maid Park

Astrodome
8400 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77054

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PHOTOGRAPHS:

View down the 1st base line © 1997 by Paul Munsey.
Aerial view of the Astrodome & Reliant Stadium © 2002 by Russ Andorka.
View inside the Astrodome © 1999 by Ira Rosen.
Aerial view of the Astrodome and Colt Stadium courtesy of the Houston Astros.
View of the original natural grass outfield courtesy of the Houston Astros.
View of the original scoreboard © 1981 by Russ Andorka.
View of the outfield stands © 1997 by Paul Munsey.

Updated June 2007

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