Although it may not make headlines, a decision by voters in Houston, Texas on Nov. 6, 2013 will impact U.S. sports history.
Houston residents voted down a proposal to renovate the Astrodome. A proposal to breathe new life into the facility as a convention and event center was defeated.
The Astrodome was the first multipurpose, domed stadium in the world. The first indoor baseball game was held there on April 9, 1965.
The Astrodome name was suited to the facility as the nation ushered in an era of new advancements amidst an attitude of “Anything can be done.” Nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” it was host to a variety of sporting events, concerts, conventions, and the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
Home to baseballs’ Astros and football’s Oilers, the Astrodome was new in many regards. Originally fitted with a glass ceiling to permit enough sunlight for a new, specially bred grass, the glare from the glass caused severe problems for ball players. Additionally, the ceiling held in moisture, which caused rain inside the structure.
The solution to paint part of the ceiling white resulted in killing the grass; thus many games were played on packed dirt painted green. Eventually, a synthetic surface was developed – Astroturf, the origin of many artificial surfaces used today.
The Astrodome scoreboard was the first to become an entertaining feature of a ballpark. The animation displayed may seem crude by today’s standards but it was the beginning of this feature common in current facilities.
The Astrodome was a special place for many years. Tours were given daily and you could purchase a sample of Astroturf in the gift shop. As technology advanced, domes become more frequent and improved.
Evolution left the Astrodome behind several newer stadiums. Older fans may regret its passing, but it was inevitable.
Unless a last-minute plan can reconfigure the structure and make it financially feasible, the Astrodome will join the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, the Kingdome, and others in the history books.
Dr. William Steffen is the Chair of Sport Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. He was formerly the women’s soccer coach for nine years at the University of Oregon. He has also worked with members of the national women’s program. He has written and lectured extensively on coaching soccer. He most recently presented at the annual meeting of the National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA).