Despite what its name might suggest, the Astrodome is not the home stadium of the Houston Astros. It was originally constructed to host Houston’s new MLB team, but it no longer hosts sporting events of any kind. The Astros played their home games in the Astrodome from 1965-2000 before moving to Minute Maid Park. The Astrodome became too old and run down to host sporting events around that time, but it still stands today and remains one of the most iconic stadiums in professional sports history.
The rich history of the Astrodome
The Astrodome was constructed in 1964 in Houston, Texas. Nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome was the world’s first air-conditioned domed stadium ever built. The stadium is most famous for its use of artificial turf, which came to be known globally as Astroturf.
Along with the Astros, the Astrodome also hosted the NFL’s Houston Oilers and the University of Houston football team. It became the venue for Evel Knievel’s world record jump in 1971 and the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. The Astrodome also hosted music legends such as Elvis, George Strait, and Judy Garland, as well as the Republican Convention in 1992.
The Oilers eventually moved on from the Astrodome in 1996 and the Astros followed in 2000. The Astrodome has been vacant since 2009. The iconic red, yellow, and orange Astros-colored seats are still there today.
Why did the Astros leave the Astrodome?
As historic and cutting-edge as the Astrodome was at the time of construction, sports stadiums started to catch up to the once one-of-a-kind dome. More and more domes were popping up around the country with more seating and extra amenities. By the late 1990s, the Astrodome was behind the times.
The owners tried to upgrade the Astrodome by adding more seating in 1989. They also added new video boards in the upper deck and two new scoreboards in the outfield walls. The Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1996 for a bigger, newer stadium, but the Astros stayed for the time being.
Four years later, however, the franchise wanted a change of scenery after playing in the Astrodome for almost 40 years. The dome was becoming fragile and outdated, so the Astros opted to build a new baseball stadium. They moved into Minute Maid Park in 2000, complete with a retractable roof and a functioning locomotive with a train track in left field. They have been playing home games there ever since.
After a decade of vacancy, the Astrodome is getting renovated
The Astrodome has been empty for over 10 years now. Many called for the dome to be torn down, as it was basically just a big hunk of metal residing in the shadow of NRG stadium, the Houston Texans’ current home.
Instead of blowing the historical landmark to pieces, the county commissioners approved a $105 million renovation for the Astrodome in 2018. It will be open to host more events as early as this year. The renovation plan involves raising the floor to ground level and building 1,400 parking spaces. This will create nine acres of space around the Astrodome and surrounding area.
The Astros won’t be returning to play in the Astrodome, but the renovation plan could reopen the space for concerts, smaller sporting events, and even rodeos in Houston.
One of the most historic venues for sporting events will be starting a second life soon. If it’s even close to as fun as its first life, the Astrodome will stand tall for decades to come.