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Reliant Astrodome

From Academic Kids

The Reliant Astrodome, formerly "the Astrodome", is a domed sports stadium, the first of its kind. It is located in Houston, Texas, and is part of the Reliant Park complex.

Picture of the Reliant Astrodome
Picture of the Reliant Astrodome

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.

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.

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 1965 until 2002.

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 at the Galleryfurniture.com 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 unless stadium seating capacity was expanded. 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.

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

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 a 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 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 what most Houstonians call "lonely landmark", because hardly any well-known event no longer takes place there. Although some Houstonians want the Reliant Astrodome blown up by 2009 or 2010, and to be replaced by a large parking lot to the new Reliant Center and Reliant Arena (a mini-convention center), city council has rejected that plan due to the surrounding environment, because the Astrodome is surrounded by some hospitals, some hotels and apartments, Reliant Center, Reliant Arena, and a Six Flags theme park, and that demolition might damage some of the Reliant Astrodome's current surroundings.

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