The Astrodome is one of the most storied and iconic structures in Houston’s history. Built as a baseball stadium, it hosted numerous sports and entertainment events over the decades. Houston Astrodome
The first fully enclosed, air-conditioned major league ballpark in the world, the Astrodome opened to the public on April 9, 1965. It was the culmination of a long-time effort to lure a major sports franchise to the city. The original plan was for a shopping mall, but Judge Roy Hofheinz persuaded Houston’s power brokers to build a large indoor stadium instead.
When the Dome was finished, it surpassed all other facilities of its time in terms of design and construction quality. It was the first building in the United States to be based on a hexagonal dome structure, and it featured several unique engineering features. Its hemispherical roof was modestly flattened to cope with environmentally-induced structural deformation and a new paving process called “lime stabilization” was used for its pavement.
Its interiors were designed to reflect the dynamism of Houston’s cultural life, and its sweeping vistas were meant to capture the imagination of spectators. It was so innovative that it inspired a wide range of other structures throughout the country, including concert halls and convention centers.
Ultimately, though, the Dome lost its status as the “8th Wonder of the World” when it was abandoned in 2008. It is now a vacant relic that sits on top of a hill of debris and decay.
While there have been a number of attempts to save the dome, none of them have been successful. Some ideas include turning the dome into an indoor amusement park, a luxury hotel, and a fake ski slope.
Other proposals have included the creation of a civic park around the dome, which would be a great way to bring people together in an area that is currently mostly vacant. In addition, a few groups are looking for ways to turn the dome into a living museum or something similar.
The current plans for the Astrodome don’t go nearly as far as some of these other ideas. Harris County commissioners are considering a $105 million proposal that would retrofit the building into a two-level parking garage beneath 9 acres of open space, a move that is not as ambitious as previous proposals but maybe what everyone can agree on.
In 2013, 53% of voters rejected a $217 million bond proposal that would have turned the Astrodome into a huge event and convention center. In the lead-up to the vote, supporters of the project drove all over the county in a 26-foot truck dubbed the “Dome Mobile.”
What’s next for the iconic Houston landmark?
Since the Dome’s closing in 2008, a number of organizations have been exploring options for the building. Its bones are as strong as ever, so legitimate attempts at revitalizing the space are in consideration.
In 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Astrodome a “National Treasure” and placed it on its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The organization said it was a “marvel of modern engineering” that was designed to embody Houston’s innovative, entrepreneurial, and space-age development as a major U.S. city. The National Trust is now working with the Astrodome Conservancy to determine the best course of action for the future of this beloved historic landmark.