The Astrodome is Houston’s most significant architectural and cultural asset. Opened in 1965, and soon nicknamed the “8th Wonder of the World,” the world’s first domed stadium was conceived to protect sports spectators from Houston’s heat, humidity, and frequent inclement weather. The brainchild of then-Houston Mayor Roy Hofheinz, the former Harris County Judge assembled a team to finance and develop the Dome, with the help of R.E. Bob Smith, who owned the land the Astrodome was built on and was instrumental in bringing professional baseballs’ Colt 45s (now the Astros) to Houston. The Astrodome was the first Harris County facility specifically designed and built as a racially integrated building, playing an important role in the desegregation of Houston during the Civil Rights Movement.
The Astrodome was revolutionary for its time as the first fully enclosed and air conditioned multi-purpose sports arena – an engineering feat of epic proportions. The innovation, audacity, and “can-do” spirit of Houston at mid-Century was embodied in the Astrodome. It was home to multiple professional and amateur sports teams and events over the years, as well as hosting the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR), concerts, community and political events. When the skylights that make up the roof of the Dome prevented outfielders from seeing fly balls, they were quickly painted over causing the turf grasses that covered the field to die. The solution? Astroturf — a chemical product developed to simulate real turf grass without the maintenance and dependence on sunlight. The Astrodome was also the first sports stadium in the county to feature luxury skyboxes and suites for owners and super-fans, as well as levels and levels of themed dining and drinking options.