60-Year-Old Houston Astrodome Looks for New Life After Years of Abandonment
Sixty years ago, on January 3, 1962, construction began on the Houston Astrodome. Former Houston mayor Roy Mark Hofheinz pitched the idea for an air-conditioned indoor arena to increase attendance for sporting events during Texas's long, hot, and impossibly humid summers. Upon completion, the 9-acre, 18-story structure made history as the world's first domed stadium.
During its heyday, the Astrodome was central to the city's cultural fabric as the home stadium for the Houston Astros major league baseball team from 1965 to 1999 and the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) NFL team from 1968 to 1996.
Nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the uses for the 66,000-capacity arena varied greatly over the years. From monster truck rallies to rodeos, concerts and performances to natural disaster relief, the Astrodome has seen it all. In 1973, the famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was held in the dome. Almost 20 years later, the 1992 Republican National Convention was hosted there. And when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, tens of thousands of residents sought shelter in the dome.
Despite its historical significance—including being the first arena to offer luxury box seating and inspiring the creation of AstroTurf artificial grass—by 2009, the Astrodome no longer met Houston fire code and ceased holding events. It has sat abandoned for the decade-plus since.
In 2018, Harris County officials signed off on a $105-million plan that would turn the dome into an event venue with a below-ground parking lot, but construction stalled indefinitely shortly after.
Today local groups are looking to give the defunct stadium new life as a community gathering space. The dome is protected from demolition thanks to state and national historic distinction. A popular proposal is to strip the dome down to its original steel framework and create a space for people to walk, bike, and swim inside the newly uncovered dome. A tree-lined park would surround the transformed dome.
Only time will tell what's in store for the iconic Astrodome, but we're hoping for a triumphant return to the spotlight!