Astrodoomed? Famed Houston Stadium May Fall To Wrecking Ball

Nov 6, 2013
Originally published on November 6, 2013 10:46 am

Voters in Houston on Tuesday rejected a bond referendum that would have allowed Harris County, Texas, to borrow $217 million that it could then spend on turning the Astrodome into one very large convention and exhibition hall.

The vote was 53 percent against the referendum, to 47 percent in favor.

Now, our friends at KUHF report, it will be up to Harris County commissioners "to decide the iconic building's ultimate fate."

The Houston Chronicle says it's likely the arena once known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" will be razed:

"County commissioners have said they would recommend the wrecking ball if the bond failed. 'We're going to have to do something quick,' County Judge Ed Emmett said afterward. 'We can't allow the once-proud dome to sit like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot.' "

The Astrodome hasn't been used since 2009, KUHF says. It opened on April 9, 1965, with an exhibition game between baseball's New York Yankees and the local Astros.

There's talk that it should be declared a historic site. As the Texas Historical Association notes, the Astrodome was "the first fully air-conditioned, enclosed, domed, multipurpose sports stadium in the world."

Earlier this year, The New York Times wrote about how it "gave us domed, all-purpose stadiums and artificial turf and expansive scoreboards."

Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs there in 1973's "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match. The University of Houston and UCLA played in the dome in 1968 in what was then college basketball's "Game of the Century."

President George H.W. Bush was nominated there at the 1992 Republican National Convention. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Astrodome offered shelter to evacuees from Louisiana.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes the Astrodome on its 2013 list of "11 most endangered historic places" in the U.S.

It has seen better times, though.

The NFL's Houston Oilers left town after the 1996 season. A new football team, the Texans, started playing in Houston in 2002. But the Texans' home is at the newer Reliant Stadium.

Baseball's Astros moved out of the dome after the 1999 season and since then have played in the city's Minute Maid Park.

The last concert at the Astrodome was a 2001 show by country music star George Strait.

About all the building is being used for these days is to store equipment and other goods used at Reliant Stadium.

KUHF's Houston Matters show says it would cost about $64 million to demolish the Astrodome. Talk of its being torn down makes us wonder what everyone thinks.

If the Astrodome is demolished, of course, we will be on the lookout for videos and reports from the scene. As longtime Two-Way readers know, we do like controlled implosions.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.