Astro Dome

The Astrodome

The Astrodome opened in Houston, Texas, on April 12, 1965. First named Harris County Domed Stadium, the cost of construction was a mind boogling $35 Million.

In 1962, the newly formed expansion team Houston Colt 45's were formed. They soon were re-named the Houston Astros.

Former Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz, came up with the idea for a domed baseball stadium, to protect the players and fans from the tropical-like weather of Houston.

When the gargantuan baseball stadium was completed it stood 18 stories high and covered 9 and a half acres of property. The 710 foot dome rested 208 feet above the baseball field.

We now had the "Eighth Wonder Of The World"!

Originally, the playing surface was natural grass. The dome had many plastic panels to allow sunlight in. But the players soon complained that fly balls were impossible to see because of the glare. So the clear panels were painted. Of course, this killed the grass.

Huge dirt areas appeared in the field where the grass had died, so for most of the first season, the spots were painted green. In fact there was a suggestion to make an all dirt infield.

Monsanto Industries had the solution. "Chem Grass" was Monsanto's newly created artificial turf. Later re-named "Astro Turf".

Only enough Chem Grass was available to cover the dirt portion of the infield. The outfield remained painted dirt until after mid-season.

On July 19, 1966 the outfield was also carpeted. The infield remained the traditonal style of dirt base paths until "sliding pits" were added in the mid 1970s.

New Baseball stadiums put Astro Turf over a concrete base. But the Astrodome never did. The carpet was laid right over the dirt surface.

The NFL Houston Oilers moved into the "Dome" in 1968. Over the years there have been countless other sporting events, political conventions, concerts and rodeos in the Astrodome. Including the "Battle of the Sexes". On September 20, 1973, Bobby Riggs took on Billy Jean King in a long anticipated tennis match. Riggs lost.

Houston's Astrodome was the host for major league baseball's All Star game in 1968 and again in 1986. The 1989 NBA All Star game was also held there.

The Astrodome's 4 story high score board was removed in the late 1980s. Oilers owners threatened to leave the dome if more seats were not added. So the score board was taken out and 15,000 new seats were added bringing the fan capacity to 60,000!

By the late 1990s, the Astrodome was in decline structurally. Houston Oiler's owner Bud Adams demanded a new football stadium. The city of Houston refused so in 1996, the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

The Astros also threatened to leave if a new baseball stadium was not built. So by 2000, Houston's Enron Field was opened. Later re-named Minute Maid park.

The Astrodome remains today, but hosts only an occaisional concert or high school football game.

Since the opening of the Astrodome in 1965, many domed stadiums have come into being. Some have retractable ceilings so that natural grass can be used.

Astrodome Baseball Field Dimensions:

The Houston Astrodome was symetrical. Originally the left and right field foul lines were 340 feet form home plate. The power alleys were at 375 and center field stood at 406.

The dimensions were changed eight times over the years. By 1994 the foul lines were set at 325. The alleys were back to the original 375 and center field ended up at 400 feet.

Memorable Moments:

The Astrodome had many memorable moments. On April 28, 1965, broadcaster Lindsey Nelson called the action from the "gondola" 208 feet above the floor of the stadium.

San Francisco Giant's star Willie Mays connected for his 500th home run in the dome on September 13, 1965.

On June 15, 1976, the Astro's game was postponed because of flooding in Houston.

Nolan Ryan pitched his fifth no hitter in the Astrodome on September 26, 1981.

The only no hitter was pitched by the Astro's Mike Scott on September 25, 1986.

On June 10, 1974, the Philadelphia Phillies' Mike Schmidt hit a ball that hit the public address speaker that was attached to the roof 117 feet high and 329 feet from home plate. The estimates were that the ball would have been a 500 foot home run, but was ruled a single.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas made his Major League broadcasting debut here in 1965.

Return from the Astrodome to Old Ball Parks

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