They nicknamed it the "eighth wonder of the world." It was home to the Houston Astros and the Houston Oilers. Nolan Ryan struck people out here. Mickey Mantle hit a home run there. Earl Campbell scored touchdowns there. Muhammad Ali fought there.
Lew Alcindor (before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) brought a record college basketball crowd there to watch "The Game of the Century." Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs there in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match. Evel Knievel jumped cars there. "The Bad News Bears" even traveled there for a fictional baseball game.
The Astrodome in Houston has certainly seen its share of huge stars and larger-than-life moments. It was, after all, the first domed stadium in sports and the reason we have something called "AstroTurf" today.
But all that history wasn't enough for voters in Texas to approve a ballot referendum that would have authorized $217 million in bonds to save the Astrodome. The plan was to turn the dome into a convention and entertainment center, since it hasn't hosted pro sports since 1999 and has been closed altogether since 2009. The ballot measure fell Tuesday, 53 percent to 47 percent, with about 16,500 votes being the difference.
In all likelihood, this means the Astrodome will be razed. It's been estimated that would cost between $29 and 78 million, according to reports. It's also been suggested that the Astrodome space would be used for parking by the time the Super Bowl comes to Houston's Reliant Stadium in 2017. That would be quite the ending for what was once such a monolithic structure.
In a pre-vote piece titled "Why the Astrodome is worth saving," Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times wrote:
"Forget Monticello or the Chrysler building: There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome.
"Widely copied after it opened in 1965, it perfectly embodies postwar U.S. culture in its brash combination of Space Age glamour, broad-shouldered scale and total climate control.
"It also offers a key case study in how modern architecture treated the natural world — and how radically the balance of power in that relationship has shifted over the last half-century.
"Domed stadiums once provided a symbol of how eager American architects were to completely seal their buildings off from nature. Now they suggest the essential futility of that effort."
After word of the election results spread Tuesday night, #AstrodomeMemories started on Twitter with people recalling their fondest experiences at the dome — from old tickets and pictures to stories of times they met players and got autographs.
But probably the fondest words about the Astrodome came from Dinn Mann. He's the executive vice president for MLB Advanced Media and he's the grandson of Roy Hofheinz, the state representative turned judge turned mayor who brought baseball to Houston. It was he who imagined the Astrodome.
“People who aren’t from Houston don’t understand — probably can’t understand — that to us, this is more than just a stadium,” Mann told the New York Post. “This is our Golden Gate Bridge, our Empire State Building.”
The Astrodome needed 16,500 more people who felt like Mann does.
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