Once billed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome is arguably Houston’s most iconic landmark.
With its 9.5-acre footprint, domed roof and electrifying scoreboard, the gleaming Astrodome, officially named the Harris County Domed Stadium (it didn’t stick), debuted April 9, 1965, 56 years ago, as the world’s first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium. Sealed off against Houston’s less than ideal weather, the futuristic, climate-controlled space was considered the first air-conditioned event venue of its size.
For nearly forty years, the gargantuan structure played host to baseball, football and basketball games, Muhammad Ali boxing matches, rodeos, concerts by stars like Elivs Presley, Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Selena, and memorable events like tennis champion Billie Jean King’s legendary triumph over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match and the 1992 Republican convention where Houston resident George Bush won the Republican presidential nomination.
For a time, the Astrodome was among the most-visited man-made attractions in the country, outranked only by the Golden Gate Bridge and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. But by 1996, the Houston Oilers had abandoned the Astrodome, and the state, for a new name and better prospects in Tennessee. And come 1999, the Astros ditched the stadium for Enron Field. The Astrodome fell into disrepair and has sat largely vacant since 2005, when it was briefly reopened as an emergency shelter for thousands of New Orleans residents fleeing Hurricane Katrina.
The Astrodome was condemned in 2009.
In 2014, the Astrodome was listed on the National Register of Historic Places both for its architectural and cultural significance. In 2017, it was designated a state antiquity landmark, joining the auspicious ranks of the Alamo and State Capitol.
The Harris County Commissioners Court approved a plan to repurpose the Astrodome in 2018. Under the $105 million plan, the space was to be transformed into a multi-functional park and event space. In November 2019, the project was scrapped.
“The plan that had been designed wouldn’t have yielded, truly a usable building,” said Hidalgo in 2019. “It’s just not something that would have made it competitive against convention centers elsewhere.”