Emerald City, Also Known As The Astrodome, Is On It’s Last Leg – Video
The Astrodome, which opened in 1965, and was once billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” is now just gathering dust, and rotting away, with no real solution as what to do with it.
Personally, for me, being an Astros’ fan, it’s very sad, as I frequented the facility often in my youth, and I’m sure many of you can relate.
I remember the first time I went to the Astrodome, back in 1974. It was a game between the Astros and the San Diego Padres.
Now, I had a vision of what the Astrodome looked like from listening to Gene Elston and Loel Passe on the radio, but never in my wildest imagination could I have ever expected what I was in for.
Walking up from the parking lot, I realized how Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion must have felt walking up to Emerald City.
It was so big! So magical! So breathtaking!
To a seven-year-old boy, who was obsessed with baseball, and the Astros, it was just gorgeous.
I wanted more though. I wanted to go inside. And as much as I loved the outside, the walk up to the gates seemed to take an eternity.
When I got inside, I swear my heart just skipped a beat.
I saw the big Texaco sign on top of the scoreboard right when I entered, and I saw the animation board right in the middle, reading “Welcome To The Astrodome…The Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Before I sat in my seat, I saw the foul lines. They were so white! The dugouts were so long! The sound of the bat from the players taking batting practice was a sound I never have, and never will be able to describe.
It was perfect.
Oh man, it was indeed Emerald City!
When I sat down, I looked up at the roof. I was absolutely mesmerized. I would have sworn at that moment that the top of the Astrodome went all the way to heaven.
When I sat down, I watched the Astros take batting practice. I saw all of my favorites, Doug Rader, Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson, and Lee May, just to name a few.
It was so wonderful, I didn’t even want the game to start. I was having a great time just like this, thank you very much.
The game did eventually start though, and when it did, Cliff Johnson hit a home run, which was good for me, because I got to see the exploding scoreboard go off in person. A lot of other people were happy because he homered when a green light was on on the scoreboard, which meant nickel beer for all adults.
That was a day that I’ll never forget, and even though I made many more trips to the Astrodome, the feeling that I had the first time didn’t diminish much as time went on.
It was still my Emerald City, every time I walked in.
Sure, I’m a baseball traditionalist, and the thought of playing indoors, on artificial turf, is, on the surface, blasphemy. But this was the Astrodome. This place was special.
This place was Emerald City.
Now, however, Emerald City is a shell of its former self, and it’s just downright heartbreaking.
The Astrodome opened as the Harris County Domed Stadium in 1965, and changed its name to the Houston Astrodome that same year.
Funny, I talk about the Astrodome being my “Emerald City”. Do you know who sang at the Astrodome on opening night, April 9, 1965? Judy Garland.
Since then, the Astrodome has been home to the Houston Astros (1965-1999), Houston Oilers (1968-1997), the Houston Cougars (1965-1997), the Houston Gamblers (1984-1985), the Bluebonnet Bowl, a Final Four (1971), and even a Wrestlemania (2001), just to name a few.
In 1968, the “Game of the Century” took place there, as the Houston Cougars, led by Elvin Hayes, defeated the UCLA Bruins, led by Lew Alcindor.
Muhammad Ali fought there. Evel Knievel jumped there. Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, the Jacksons, Madonna, and Paul McCartney all performed there.
And why wouldn’t they? This was the Astrodome…the Eighth Wonder of the World…Emerald City.
My last memory of the Astrodome, or should say the last time I remember Emerald City was back in 1999, when the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-4, to win the National League Central Division, in the last regular season Astros’ game played there.
I’ll always remember Craig Biggio and Mike Hampton sharing a victory lap, and a cigar, as the team celebrated.
Since then, Emerald City has deteriorated.
Now, even though the facility is officially called the Reliant Astrodome, the facility no longer has a certificate of occupancy.
The Dome hasn’t even been used in four years, and it’s costing the county $2 million to $3 million a year in maintenance fees.
The old locker rooms are in complete shambles, and most of the seats are in so bad of shape that they have the padding coming out of them.
The Astrodome cost $32 million to build, but would cost $350 million to renovate.
The problem goes deeper, as it would cost $120 to demolish it, and even then, that would be a problem, as some worry that by doing so may do damage to nearby Reliant Stadium.
Yes, it has become that bad for my Emerald City. So bad that they can’t even give it a proper send off like so many other great stadiums of yesteryear.
Taxpayers will vote on the fate of the Astrodome in the coming weeks.
I don’t get a vote, as I don’t live in Harris County, but I’d vote to demolish it.
Let me remember my perfect place…my heaven on earth…my Emerald City…with the style, class, and beauty that it was, instead of the eyesore it has become.
Check out video of the Astrodome, today, courtesy of Jordan Godwin, of the Galveston County Daily News.