First of, even though this is 8 months late, it’s better than nothing! And just before I officially start this entry, I want to state that this unfortunately, was NOT a game I attended (this post is about an experience) as the Astros played their last game at the Dome on October 9th, 1999, (Game 4 of the NLDS when they lost the game to the Braves, 7-5 and were eliminated from the postseason) and at that time, I wasn’t even born yet! The Astros promptly moved into as then known, Enron Field and played their first game on March 30th, 2000, a mere 8 days after I was born on March 22nd, 2000. Therefore, I never got the chance to go inside and enjoy the Astrodome experience. Although, I do have a pair of authentic seats (pictured below) from the Dome here at my house (when they were sold to the public in 2013), but I still didn’t have the FULL experience.
The Astrodome officially closed in 2002 after its last tenant (The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) left, and ever since as rarely been open to the general public. It has been a topic of debate now as whether to re-purpose it or even demolish it here in Houston. While many other old domed stadiums (Kingdome comes to mind) have been demolished, nothing at all has been done with the Astrodome, as it just stays there left to rot and its future fate still remains a mystery. Personally, I thought that I would never get a chance to go inside. Funny how life works, huh? Now, I’m assuming many of you are wondering, what is the significance of the Astrodome? Well, I’ll be happy to tell you!
The Astrodome opened on April 9th, 1965 and was the first multipurpose domed stadium in the WORLD. Many historic events were held here including; A Muhammad Ali fight in 1966, “The Game of The Century” basketball game between Houston & UCLA in 1968, Evel Knievel preforming his famous stunts in 1971, the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973, Elvis Presley concerts in 1974, Selena’s last concert in 1995, and WWE’s (then known as WWF) Wrestlemania 17. The Houston Oilers (NFL) also called this place home, (which led to the 1989 renovation) but left amidst dissatisfaction with the Dome. On a baseball note, it hosted the 1968 and 1986 All Star Games, and two of the best postseason series of all time with the 1980 NLCS (Phillies won series 3-2.) & 1986 NLCS. (Mets won series 4-2.)
In the days leading up to the 50th anniversary (thanks Astros organization, for making commemorative baseballs to celebrate this in 2015, as I snagged 36 of them at games.) of the Astrodome’s first official game (April 9th), the County announced that a free party would be held outside of the Dome from 6-8 PM to celebrate the anniversary, and that the Astrodome was going to BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC TO GO INSIDE. As soon as I heard this on the news, I knew I had to jump on this opportunity. I told my dad, and he agreed to take me. I waited in much anticipation for April 9th to come.
Finally, the day came, and after school around 5:30, we (along with my sister, who decided to tag along) began our 30 minute drive to the Astrodome, hopefully to get there by 6, when I assumed they would start letting people in. Now, me and my dad both thought that maybe a few thousand people would attend and with the line, it would maybe take us 30 minutes to get in and go out. Oh boy, weren’t we wrong. By the time we got there around 6:05, and into the parking lot, we could tell it was going to be packed. We quickly ran to the end of the line, which was growing by the second, and I couldn’t believe how longed it stretched. To try to give you a better picture in your head/visually, I have drawn the line. Wow. The line continued past us (the red dot) and I couldn’t even think of how long it would take us to get inside. I was very worried that we wouldn’t even make it inside before 8 PM or lose our patience, and just go home. But me, I was sure as hell determined to get inside. This opportunity was not going to pass me up. The long journey began to get inside the Astrodome.
6:20 PM- The Astrodome awaits us, this is where we were at the “start” of the line. 6:49 PM- Slow progress, can this line move any faster? 7:22 PM- At this time, an announcement was made to everybody still in line, and it was said that the Dome would remain open until EVERYBODY got a chance to go inside. I was relieved that they weren’t going to turn everybody that was left at 8 PM (Imagine the outrage!) so that felt good at the moment, but do I look fed up with the line?7:23 PM- What a nice day for a celebration. Blue skies, basking with the Dome. 8:22 PM- Wow, an hour passed already? Anyways, for some reason I didn’t take any pictures in that 1 hour time period, I believe it was because I wanted to save my battery, but we had progressed in the line very well, and during the wait, we spotted a monster truck that went by the name of “Thunder Chicken“. Supposedly ran in the 80’s, I don’t know much about these types of trucks. 8:41 PM- Finally! We were almost nearing the entrance to go inside. The nice blue sky had now turned into a dark one, it looked like it might rain, but it didn’t (thankfully.) 8:42 PM- “Elvis” is spotted leaving the building. Not the only one I saw throughout the whole day. (Nolan Ryan 80’s Rainbow Jersey was the most popular thing I saw people wearing. ) 8:43 PM- I see the light! We had finally reached the entrance. Lots of people entering, and from the other side you could see all of the people that were leaving. 8:44 PM- Looking up, very daunting as we’re about to go inside. 8:45 PM- The upper deck is visible! 8:46 PM- Officially inside! I was inside of history! One thing that stood out though, was the smell of mildew, and a reminder of how long this stadium has been defunct, and how it’s not been treated well.8:47 PM- To my right, you could see the area that was behind the Left-Center Field seats. 8:48 PM- Catching somebody taking a selfie, hah. 8:48 PM- Looking behind me, I could tell that we had entered and were currently standing on the area that was “Center Field”. 8:48 PM- A whole bunch/stacks of Astrodome seats that were already taken out from all over (if you haven’t already noticed the bare concrete all over the Dome) and probably going to be sold in the near future. 8:49 PM- Wait, just a sec! There were still a few sections in the upper deck in which lots of seats were still in tact (notice the old reliant logo too), to still make the wonderful rainbow. 8:49 PM- Better close up of the stacked seats. 8:49 PM- The other half of seats still in tact. 8:50 PM- I finally decided to look up, and oh my, what a beauty. THIS is my favorite picture that I took. What an architectural aesthetic picture. 8:51 PM- Looking towards where home plate was. 8:52 PM– They had some really cool artifacts there on display such as lockers, a ticket turnstile, pictures of Astros legends that were drawn (and signed by the players) and originally located in the Astros’ clubhouse, and my personal favorites, the last bases used for the final Astros game, including home plate. Also, if you look to the right of all these artifacts, you can slightly see a patch of brown. That was dirt from where 2nd base used to be. Wow, I was very close, and who played 2nd base for the Astros in the 90’s? Craig Biggio. Wow. That’s when I realized that I was inside a pure historic stadium. 8:53 PM- One thing/artifact that wasn’t shown in the previous picture was this, first installed in the building when it was completed in 1965. 8:53 PM- Panorama time. 8:55 PM- Astroturf! They still had huge rolls of them stacked away. The story of how the turf was invented was that, when the Dome originally opened, the panels on the roof were clear to let the sun in. Well, players then had a REALLY tough time finding the ball during popups, almost impossible, so the staff decided to paint the panels white, which led to another problem, the grass started dying because of the lack of sun! So in 1966, Astroturf was invented and installed, and was used throughout the entire lifespan of the Dome. 9:00 PM- Picture with my dad. We can both now say we’ve been inside of 4 MLB facilites (past or present) with the addition of the Astrodome. (Other 3: Minute Maid Park, Globe Life Park in Arlington, and Tropicana Field.) Very satisfying moment, and my Dad sure did have a nice choice of shirt for this occasion. 9:04 PM- It was finally time to leave, and head towards the exit. Former football play clock visible in middle. 9:05 PM- Looking back, I had to take one more pic, who knows if I will ever be back? What a marvelous piece of history. 9:06 PM– Exit, stage left. 9:19 PM- The Houston Astrodome. Still looks brand spankin’ new (from the outside.) All in all, I was very glad to have this opportunity to go inside and see what the Astrodome was all about, even in 2015. Now, remember at the beginning of this entry how I said that maybe a few thousand would attend? The next morning, they announced that over 25,000 people attended the party, and went inside the Dome. Wow, wow, wow. So many people still have interest in the Astrodome, and the love shown for it on that night was outstanding. To me, this shows that we cannot tear down this historic venue. There are so many things that can be done with it, and all of them WILL be beneficial (hell, why not renovate it to play a few more baseball games?). I support saving the Dome and this experience will carry my Astrodome experience with me forever.
Thanks for reading, please comment what you thought of this post, share it, or do anything to get the word out! Ya’ll are the best, and as always, GO ASTROS!