Voters in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday headed to the polls to decide the fate of the Houston Astrodome, dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1965 as the first multi-purpose domed stadium ever built.
The stadium, now officially known as Reliant Astrodome, was long ago abandoned by the Houston Astros, who moved to Minute Maid Park, and the Houston Oilers, who moved to Tennessee and became the Titans. When the expansion Houston Texans of the NFL began playing in 2002, their home became Reliant Stadium next door.
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Voters on Tuesday will decide whether to raise $217 million to turn the stadium into a multipurpose event center that can host everything from conventions to rodeos. Officials have said that if the ballot measure fails, the Astrodome could be torn down within a few months.
It would be a sad ending to such a storied building.
“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,” wrote Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne
. “It also offers a key case study on how modern architecture treated the natural world – and how radically the balance of power in that relationship has shifted over the last half-century.
President Lyndon B. Johnson was among those who watched the Astros take on the Yankees for an exhibition game when the Astrodome first opened. It originally featured natural grass on its playing field, but when ceiling panels were painted over to cut down on the glare, the grass died. That’s when Monsanto’s synthetic “Chemgrass” was introduced, and the company later changed the product’s name to Astroturf.
The ballot measure calls for getting rid of all the seats, raising the floor and creating 350,000 square feet of convention space. A 400,000-square-foot plaza would be built outside the building.
“I love the Astrodome. It’s the memories of my childhood,” former Houston City Councilman Michael Berry told The Associated Press.
“But pouring good money after bad is a bad financial decision.”
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