Reliant Astrodome

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Reliant Astrodome
The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World
Facility statistics
Location 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054
Broke ground January 3, 1962
Opened April 12, 1965
Closed December 21, 1996 (NFL)
October 9, 1999 (MLB)
2003 (rodeo) 2004 (official)
Demolished N/A
Owner Harris County
Operator Astrodome USA
Surface Grass (1965)
Astroturf (1966–present)
Construction cost $35 million USD
Architect Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson
Former names
The Astrodome
Harris County Domed Stadium
Houston Oilers (NFL) 19681997
Houston Astros (MLB) (1965-1999)
Houston Gamblers (USFL) (1984-1985)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (1966-2003)
Hurricane Katrina Survivors (August 31, 2005-September 17, 2005)
Seating capacity
62,439 Football
54,816 Baseball

The Reliant Astrodome, formerly "the Astrodome", is a domed sports stadium, the first of its kind. It is located in Houston, Texas at 29.6849° N 95.408° W, and is part of the Reliant Park complex. It opened in 1965 as Harris County Domed Stadium and was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World". (A team owner is quoted as saying that the "rent for the Astrodome was the ninth".) Reliant Energy purchased naming rights to the building in 2000.



Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1962 with the Houston Colt .45s, who were later renamed the Astros. Houston's unpredictable subtropical weather made outdoor baseball difficult for players and spectators alike. Several baseball franchises had toyed with the idea of building enclosed, air-conditioned stadiums. Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz claimed inspiration for what would eventually become the Astrodome when he was on a tour of Rome, where he learned that the builders of the ancient Colosseum installed giant velariums to shield spectators from the Roman sun.

Astrodome Skylights
Astrodome Skylights

When the Astrodome opened, it used a natural grass playing surface. The dome's ceiling was made of clear plastic panes. Players quickly complained that glare coming off of the panes made it impossible for them to track fly balls, so all of the panes were painted over, which solved the glare problem but caused the grass to die from lack of sunlight. For a time, the Astros played on green-painted dirt. The permanent solution was to install a new type of artificial grass on the field, which became known as AstroTurf.

Teams who played there

In 1968, the American football team Houston Oilers moved into the Dome. Over the years, college basketball and football games, soccer matches, religious gatherings, and music concerts have been held at the stadium. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of the city's biggest annual events, was held at the Dome from 1966 until 2003.

The World Football League's Houston Texans called the stadium home for part of the 1974 season.

The Houston Gamblers of the USFL also played home games at the Astrodome.

The Astrodome was also home to the University of Houston's football team until Robertson Stadium on campus was renovated in 1998.

The Bluebonnet Bowl was played at the stadium from 1968 through 1984, and again in 1987.

The stadium was also home to the Houston Bowl (then known as the Bowl) in 2000 and 2001.


The Astrodome was well-known for a four-story-tall scoreboard, comprised of thousands of lightbulbs, that featured animations until its removal in the late 1980s. This loss was brought about by threats from Oilers owner Bud Adams to move his football team to Jacksonville, Florida unless stadium seating capacity was expanded. (Ironically, Jacksonville won an NFL expansion franchise in 1995.) The city buckled to his demands, and the scoreboard was removed and approximately 15,000 new seats installed to bring total capacity over 60,000. In 1989, four cylindrical columns were constructed outside the Dome.

Recent history

The 1992 Republican National Convention was held at the Astrodome. The Astros accommodated the politicians by taking a month-long road trip.

The largest crowd in its history took place in 2001, when the WWE brought Wrestlemania X-Seven to the Astrodome. It attracted 67,925 fans.

The Astrodome began to show its age by the 1990s. Oilers owner Adams issued a new set of demands, this time for a completely new stadium, but the city of Houston refused to fund such a venture. After years of threats, Adams moved the team to Tennessee in 1996. Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built. Houstonians acquiesced this time, and the retractable-roofed Minute Maid Park was erected in downtown Houston in 2000.

The Astrodome was joined by a new neighbor in 2002, the retractable-roofed Reliant Stadium, which was built to house Houston's new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. When the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved to the new venue in 2003, the Astrodome was left without any major tenants. The historic facility now hosts occasional concerts and high school football games. Much talk among various civic planners has focused on converting the dome into a space-themed hotel and amusement park or as an additional convention center for the City of Houston. The stadium is currently called the "lonely landmark" by Houstonians because hardly any well-known events take place there. Although some Houstonians want the Reliant Astrodome demolished by 2009 or 2010, and to be replaced by a large parking lot for the new Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Center and Reliant Arena (a mini-convention center), city council has rejected that plan for environmental reasons. They reasoned that the Astrodome is closely surrounded by hospitals, hotels, apartments, Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Center, Reliant Arena, a freeway, Six Flags theme park, and that demolition might damage some of them. On September 12, 2005, Six Flags Astroworld announced the park's closure.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

2005 Atlantic hurricane season

Survivors of Katrina in the Astrodome
Survivors of Katrina in the Astrodome
Improvised accommodation for evacuees
Improvised accommodation for evacuees
Camp New Orleans
Camp New Orleans

On August 31, 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Harris County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State of Louisiana came to an agreement to allow at least 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans, especially those that were sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome, to move to the Astrodome until they could return home. The evacuation began on September 1. All scheduled events for the final four months of 2005 at the Astrodome were cancelled. [1]. However, eventually officials declared that the Reliant Astrodome was full at 13,000 and could not accept additional hurricane evacuees from the disaster. Overflow evacuees were held in the surrounding Reliant Park complex including 3,000 at the Reliant Arena and 8,000 at the Reliant Center. No more evacuees were taken into the Astrodome. There was a full field hospital inside the Reliant Arena, which cares for the entire evacuee community.

The entire "Reliant City" (the Astrodome and surrounding athletic facilities) was scheduled to be emptied of evacuees by September 17, 2005. The Astrodome has no other current use, aside from a handful of conventions, and originally the Astrodome was planned to be used to house evacuees until December. However, the surrounding parking lots were needed for the first Houston Texans home game. Arrangements were made to help evacuees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005 the last of the evacuees living in the Astrodome had been moved out either to the neighboring Reliant Arena or to more permenant housing. As of September 20, 2005, the remaining evacuees were relocated to Arkansas due to Hurricane Rita.

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