Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson

Reliant Astrodome

Added by Andrew Maziarski, last update: November 19, 2012, 11:40 am

Reliant Astrodome
Location
8400 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77054
United States
29° 40' 40.3464" N, 95° 24' 34.7436" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Recreation (REC)
Secondary classification: Public Services (PBS)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The building is most significant in the history of sports stadia for being the the world’s largest self-supporting dome at the time of its construction. The difficulty in getting natural light into the stadium led to the development of Astroturf, an artificial replacement for grass. In the early 1960s, ex-mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz proposed the construction of a fully air-conditioned indoor stadium in order to bring baseball to Texas. Judge Hofheinz, the eventual owner of the Houston Astros baseball team, was largely inspired by the Colosseum, which had its own movable roof system. In 1965, this became a reality when the 18-story high, 9 level domed stadium opened. It would also become the home of the Houston Oilers NFL team, as well as other college and professional sports teams. After the Astrodome was opened Judge Hofheinz said that "Nobody can ever see this and go back to Kalamazoo, Chicago, New York, you name it, and still think this town is bush league."

Dates: Commission / Completion:Start of site work: (e) January 3rd, 1962, Completion/inauguration: (e) April 9th, 1965
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect(s): Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson/ Structural Engineer(s): Walter P. Moore Engineers and Consultants/Consulting Engineer(s): J.G. Turney, Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc., Bolt, Bernaek & Newman General Contractor(s): H.A. Lott, Inc / Air Conditioning Designer(s): Jacky Boyd Buckley, I.A. Naman
Others associated with Building/Site: Judge Roy Hofheinz: First conceptualized building a domed stadium in the 1960s. Sports Teams: Houston Astros (MLB: 1965-1999), Houston Oilers (NFL: 1968-1997), Houston Cougars (NCAA: 1965-1997), Significant Events: Houston Livestock Show and Rode: 1966-2003, Wrestlemania X-Seven: 2001, Republican National Convention: 1992.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): (ca) 1966: AstroTurf was first developed to replace dead grass in the stadium. (ca) 1989: In the fall of 1989, an expansion project enlarged seating capacity in the Astrodome by extending the upper decks into the outfield and adding 66 new Sky Boxes on the Club Level. There was also four external ramps added to the building to help it conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The floor had been dirt since the stadium first opened in 1965. It was concreted and the Astroturf was replaced with a new Monsanto "Magic Carpet' system. The Astrodome scoreboard and home run spectacular were replaced by two Diamond Vision screens, a large matrix board, two auxiliary matrix boards and a game-in-progress board." (ca) 1993, Two out of town scoreboards were installed to give inning by inning scores of games in progress.
Current Use: The building is currently vacant as a new stadium as been built to house Texas' professional sports teams. In 2005, however, tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims sought refuge in the stadium, especially those who were being held in the Louisiana Superdome.
Current Condition: The building has been cited with multiple building and fire code violations, estimated to cost in the millions of dollars. Yearly general upkeep is estimated around $3million dollars, which is essentially funded by taxpayer money.
General Description:

Made primarily of concrete and steel, the Astrodome is a circular stadium occupying over 9.5 acres that has 9 levels. During construction over 40,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete, 2,500 tons of reinforcing steel, and 9,000 tons of structural steel were used. It currently has the ability to hold 62,439 football fans, 54,816 baseball fans, and 67,925 professional boxing/wrestling fans. The dome itself is over 700 feet in diameter, and rises 208 feet above the playing field. The dome was originally comprised of semi transparent lucite panes, allowing natural light to enter the stadium. Some of the panes were eventually painted to compensate for sun glare. As a result Astroturf was first developed there to compensate for the lack of natural light reaching the interior of the stadium.

Construction Period:

January 1962 - April 1965

Original Physical Context:
Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The Astrodome was one of if not the most ambitious stadium plan of the 1960s. Many believed that the building simply could not be constructed as a domed, climate controlled building. This was soon proven not to be the case. Nevertheless, some failures did mark the buildings history. Possibly the most notable was the failure of the natural grass planted on the field. The stadiums dome did not provide ample light to sustain its grass. As a result Astroturf was developed in order to use synthetic elements as opposed to natural. At the time of its completion, the 660-foot-wide circular roof was the world’s largest self-supporting dome. Engineers paid special attention to the framing that was used in constructing the dome, as improper engineering would cause it to fail. Special considerations were taken to ensure the domes structural integrity against elements such as wind and rain.

Social:

The construction of the Astrodome allowed for Texas to host its very own professional baseball team. The stadium would also eventually become home to a professional football team, as well as hosting various other events such as concerts, rodeos, boxing matches, and professional wrestling events. The Astrodome was also the first stadium to include luxury suites and upscale restaurants within its confines. Stephen Klineberg, a sociologist at the University of Houston, referred to the Astrodome as "the most exciting thing that has ever happened to Houston." While other stadiums were interpreted primarily for their ability to function for their sports teams, the Astrodome was often visited by people wishing to see the facility itself. Though many of the interior boxes and suites were designed as lavish retreats for high end clients, the Astrodome also boasted less opulent rooms, many of which were rented out by local corporations. The Astrodome undoubtedly played one of the most important roles in reshaping the image of Houston.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The buildings enormous steel and concrete exterior quickly became a symbol of the developing Houston area. It instilled a sense of prestige and honor to the area as well. This was a similar feeling that cities like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles had already enjoyed for decades. It undoubtedly provided a new sense of community and camaraderie that sports teams often engender. The design itself became an inspiration as well. New Orleans followed suit in the mid 70s with their construction of the Superdome, and even larger circular indoor stadium.
Historical:

By in large, the Astrodome was a building that introduced an entirely new concept of stadium design in the United States. However, it bears obvious resemblances to such structures as the Colosseum. In fact, Judge Roy Hofheinz, who had originally drawn up the idea, admitted to being largely inspired by the Roman structure. The buildings' $2million dollar scoreboard was the most technologically advanced for its time, and provided patrons with unprecedented visual stimulation and sports updates. National media soon began to view the Astrodome as a symbol of Houston's technological progression. Along with the introduction of NASA, the Astrodome played one of the largest roles in redefining the overall image of Houston.

General Assessment:
The Houston Astrodome not only became Americas largest domed stadium, but it also set the precedent for future designs. The arena brought with it a feeling of prestige to the Houston area, as well as professional sports teams and other public events. Its grandiose, sophisticated, and technological innovation was the first of its kind in the United States and created and entirely new type of experience to attendants. Canonic Status: The Astrodome was committed to creating a new type of grand sports stadium in America. It took nearly 10 years before the Astrodome's lavish and grandiose nature was replicated. In 1975, Louisiana created the Superdome, a building that could actually hold the Astrodome within its confines. The Astrodome can be recognized as having inspired the modern elliptical and domed type of stadia around the country.
Documentation
Text references:

Hughes, Holly, Larry West. Fromer's 500 Places to See Before They Disappear, Wiley Publishing, Inc. Hoboken, NJ: 2009.
Duncan, Joyce. Sports in American culture: From Ali to X-Games, ABC-CLIO, Inc. Santa Barbara: 2004.
Trumpbour, Robert. The New Cathedrals: Politics and Media in the History of Stadium Construction, Syracuse University Press. Syracuse: 2007.
Arnold, Robert. "Future of the Astrodome" Click 2 Houston, April 17, 2009. http://www.click2houston.com/news/19200532/detail.html.
"Astrodome: Houston, Texas" June 2007. http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/national/astrod.htm
Arnold, Robert. "Is Astrodome Worth the Cost" Click 2 Houston, July, 19 2008. http://www.click2houston.com/news/16929758/detail.html.
Hamm, Madeleine McDermot. "The Astrodome: The glory days, the decline, the future" Cite Magazine (Fall 2008).
Webb, Bruce. "Making a Dome Deal" Cite Magazine (Summer 2005)
Zimmerman, Kenneth. "Astrodome: And engineering marvel of the 60s" Fall 2008

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