8400 Kirby Drive
Houston, Texas 77504
November 2010–My dad came home one night with four tickets to an Astros game for the following week. For days that was the only thing that I looked forward to. Just thinking about being in the crowd made me excited. As the day approached, I was getting more anxious to attend my first baseball game. The Astros were playing the New York Yankees. I did not know what to wear to a baseball game, but I decided that shorts and a t-shirt would have to do. The day finally arrived and I was ready to see a baseball game live. On our way to the Astrodome, I saw the dome. I was unable to take my eyes off this massive building. Once you catch a glimpse of it, it is very hard to take your eyes off it. Not only that, but I was finally about to witness my first baseball game. It was the game of the season and everyone in my town wanted to be a part of it.
The stadium itself was initially named the Harris County Dome Stadium, but was later renamed the Astrodome because of its astronomical size. The Astrodome was the world’s first large indoor venue for any Major League field sport and was considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The Astrodome was the home of the Houston Astros, once called the Colt .45s. The main reason the Colt .45s changed their name was for the building of the Astrodome. Judge Roy Hofheinz, the owner of the Houston Astros came up with the idea of building a gigantic dome. The architects who designed the Astrodome were Hermon Lloyd, W.B. Morgan and Wilson. Roy believed that the City of Houston was too hot to play or watch a baseball game, so he wanted to have an air-conditioned stadium where everybody would feel comfortable. A stadium large enough to cover a baseball field and could seat about fifty thousand people. The Astrodome was the first sports stadium that had a roof over the playing field and cushioned seats, sky boxes, and a two million dollar scoreboard. The dome has a 660-foot wide circular roof and is 710 feet in diameter, with a playing field that is twenty-five feet below the ground, and a parking lot that had to have thirty thousand parking spaces. An eighteen-story building could fit inside of it.
I remember running down the ramps of the Astrodome, which as a little girl was very exciting. Fighting through the crowds and looking for our seats was a memorable thing on the first visit to the Astrodome. As a big fan of the Astros, I would get to the baseball games early in order to receive the free items they were giving to the first hundred people. The loud noise of the fans reminded me that I really was at a baseball game, of course, not all the games were successful, but being in the Astrodome was good enough.
Many stadiums only focus on one sport or event, not the Astrodome. Baseball games are not the only events; they also have football and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Rodeo is held once a year and is full of excitement. The part of the Rodeo that I most look forward to is the concert that is held at the end of the Rodeo. The only times that I step foot in the dome is when a baseball game or the Rodeo is going on. Those are two main events that I always looked forward to, and still do, even though the Astrodome is no longer the home of the Astros. The Astrodome has a great history behind it.
April 9, 1965, marked the first baseball game to be played at the Astrodome; it was the Astros versus the Yankees. The field was made of natural grass; in order for the grass to grow there were 4,796 clear plastic roof panes. The sunlight going through the roof panes would blind many outfielders who were trying to catch the ball. Many changes were made to accommodate the baseball players, but the grass was dying. A nylon grass called the “Astroturf” was installed in order to make the grass look beautiful. The Astrodome was the first stadium in the country that used separate Astroturf for baseball and football. The Astroturf was later replaced with magic carpet. The Astrodome was also the home of two football teams, the University of Houston and the Houston Oilers. The stadium needed to increase their capacity, a sixty million expansion project enlarged seating capacity. Sixty six new sky boxes were added on the club level. Two external pedestrian ramps and the dirt floor were replaced with concrete. 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. By the mid 1990’s the Astros wanted a new stadium. The hitters complain that the ball did not seem to carry well at all, and the visibility was poor, which in turn gave them trouble picking up the rotation of the baseball once it was released from the pitcher’s hand. The generally high number of strike-outs supported the statement that was made. The last Astros game at the Astrodome was on October 9, 1999. A year later, the team moved into Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.
One of the main purposes to the dome was to attract attention not only for baseball but for the city. The stadium will not be popular if it is not distinguished by a small detail; the shape is not a small detail. Is the shape the only thing that attracts us to the Astrodome? I think the shape is the first thing that we look at, but the size is also incredible. The stadium cannot be replicated because it has many details. The Astrodome reminds me of outer space because of the word “Astros,” in which I imagine the dome as a plate that is floating in space. The Astrodome was the place to play ball.
The Astrodome will always be the first stadium that I set a foot in. I had many memorable moments at the Astrodome. I always had a fun time at the Astrodome no matter what event was going on. I really enjoyed sitting in those cushioned seats eating nachos and peanuts while watching a baseball game which most people do when they attend a baseball game. A game should be full of excitement unless your team is losing. An exception should be made because you are under the dome. A new modern stadium like Minute Maid Park can never be compared to the Astrodome. The Astrodome will always remain in people lives and will always be remembered.
Judge Roy Hofheinz