HOUSTON – A party to celebrate the storied past of the Astrodome took place Monday evening.
The Astrodome Conservancy last month announced the “Domecoming” party to mark the 53rd anniversary of the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World.
Tickets were free through advanced registration at TicketMaster.com, but the event sold out fast. Within two hours, 25,000 tickets were gone, according to Phoebe Tudor, chair of the Astrodome Conservancy.
"Because this is sort of a special occasion to get people in, we are kinda moving them in and out pretty quickly," Tudor said. "It’s not a real party in the dome, it’s a party to see the dome.
Joey Crispin was one of thousands who had an opportunity to attend the event. He has been going to the Astrodome for Houston Oilers and Astros games since he was 10 years old.
"It’s amazing. I can’t wait to go inside and just rehash all that went on," Crispin said.
The party is most likely the last time people will see inside the Astrodome before a $105 million revitalization project begins in the fall.
"We need to preserve our icon. It was the first dome stadium ever and it set the stage for all of the others that have come after it," Tudor said.
When it opened in 1965, the Harris County Domed Stadium was the first of its kind, and was dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World."
The stadium hosted the Astros from 1965 to 1999 and the Oilers from 1968 to 1996.
The Dome was condemned and closed to the public in 2009.
Native Houstonian Rodney Boudreaux said he has vivid memories of watching games at the Astrodome.
“I actually got two good games in before they left," he said. “I got to see the Steelers. I got to the 49ers. So, I mean, it was a good experience.”
Boudreaux said he is looking forward to seeing the Dome revitalized.
What's next for the Dome
The $105 million plan would include raising the Astrodome's floor to create an underground parking garage and 9 acres of open space.
The space is expected to be used for conferences, festivals and, potentially, commercial space.
The money to pay for the renovations would come from the county's general fund of property taxes, hotel occupancy taxes and parking fees.
Construction is expected to start in October 2018 and would take 17 months to complete.
The Texas Historical Commission will have to approve the plan since it designated the Astrodome as a State Antiquities Landmark last year.
Judge Ed Emmett
The head of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, Judge Ed Emmett, had been very vocal for years about saving the Astrodome.
“It belongs to the taxpayers. It's fully paid for. It's structurally sound, so it makes no sense to tear this thing down because we wouldn't have a revenue maker here,” said Emmett. “We’re finally at the point where we have a plan. It’s a very financially responsible plan because what it does, the new floor and the parking underneath, will generate revenue and help maintain all of NRG Park.
“This is the piece a lot of people didn’t understand. They just thought it was about nostalgia. No it’s not. It’s about a perfectly usable building where we can create 9 acres of covered space that can be rented to the boat show, the auto show. (The) Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo can obviously use it, festivals and gatherings, and by doing that, that generates revenue that can be used to maintain NRG Stadium, perhaps build a new arena.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also got a glimpse of the Astrodome and reflected on its history.
“I haven’t been inside the Astrodome in probably about 20 years. I’m a native Houstonian, grew up in this city. This is the Eighth Wonder of the World -- baseball, football, basketball. The Battle of the Sexes, the tennis match, was right here,” Turner said. “I’m a University of Houston native. UCLA 1968, right here, every seat was packed -- a lot of memories.”
He too credited Emmett for saving the Dome.
“The city of Houston is in the county. It’s a young city. We can build new and preserve old and hold onto our history, repurpose it for generations to come. You don’t have to tear down every old building in the city of Houston and the county,” Turner said.
ASTRODOME PARTY! 25,000 fans will get a last look inside the dome and check out this memorabilia! WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY?? KPRC2 #KPRC2 #Domecoming18Posted by KPRC2 Cathy Hernandez on Monday, April 9, 2018