The Dome, Abandoned

Touring the old favorite

SPACED CITY

The Reliant Astrodome was — is — the Eighth Wonder of the World. Generations of Houston-area kids spent their days dreaming of playing on the field under that massive domed ceiling. It's one of our city's last non-NASA ties to the space program, this UFO-like structure in the middle of a modern commercial and medical infrastructure. And she's dark, full of dust and ghosts of heroes past, sitting on Loop 610.

The turf that saw so much joy, heartbreak and tedium.
Craig Hlavaty
The turf that saw so much joy, heartbreak and tedium.
The turnstiles turn no more.
Craig Hlavaty
The turnstiles turn no more.

Recently the Reliant team allowed a handful of reporters — print, blog, radio and television teams — to view the rainbow guts of the Houston Astrodome, years dormant, now towered over by Reliant Stadium just a Warren Moon pass to Haywood Jeffires away.

Before we entered, we all signed waivers, since we would be touring a building that is not up to code. Not that it could fall upon us at any moment ("Death by Astrodome" has a fun ring to it), but certain legal precautions must be taken. There is no a/c to speak of, and only minimal lighting. We brought a flashlight and a sweat towel. This is Houston in April, after all.

Walking into the Dome, you are greeted by a musty smell, and then your own memories come flooding back. The rainbow seats have a certain way of caressing your eyes. Seeing the old girl devoid of joy, used as a storage facility for random RodeoHouston gear, is a far cry from Biggio, Bagwell and Cammie on the diamond. The seats are all covered in dust and the ground is littered with fan refuse. A peanut husk here, a receipt there.

The tour made its way to the floor of the Dome, which is where you can fully take in its size. With maybe 40 voices jabbering, the silence is still eerie. Looking from where second base or a 50-yard line would be up to the pinnacle of the dome still instills awe. Someone built this. There is football turf laid out on the concrete floor of the Dome, drying out from being flooded during a recent accident in the complex.

Someone dropped a seat near one of the sidelines and it sounded like the crack of a bat, bringing me back to those afternoons spent watching batting practice before Astros games. The sound of a bat hitting a ball had a sound to it in the Dome that you don't hear at Minute Maid.

We made our way to the former Oilers and Astros locker rooms, rusted from years of dormancy. For some reason, when I was young I thought the rooms where those He-Men suited up were bigger than this.

The Astros clubhouse has been trashed by vandals, with broken glass littering the coaches' offices. There are cubbyholes on one wall where fan mail would go. I smiled at #11. The baseball team had a large training and sports medicine area. There was a green turf running incline, and, of course, batting cages, all set off in a cave. Just a few feet away was the door to where the dugout would be now.

It's easy to forget that pro baseball and football haven't been played here in over a decade. There are still Astros and Oilers insignia throughout. The last time I would have stepped in here would have been in 2002 to see Bob Dylan at RodeoHouston while Reliant was coming up next door. Old hand-painted beer ads dated back to 1999 seem quaint now. Nary a QR code in sight.

A quick trip into the press area yielded a visit into the old A/V room where all the video tech work went down. So many VHS tapes, and those big nasty ones I have not seen since college. I couldn't find Milo Hamilton's old digs, sadly.

A few flights up those rounded ramps, we found where the high rollers and tycoons would watch games from plush boxes. Nameplates of sponsor companies filled a box in a darkened corner. A bird carcass sat nearby, trapped in the ramp.

The tour made it into the balcony area, where the rainbow seats were to close out our Dome adventure. Reliant Park General Manager Mark Miller, our guide, told me that Hurricane Ike had only displaced one of the tiles on the roof of the Dome.

One.

All owing to the design of the building. The rest of the Reliant complex didn't fare too well, though. This thing could withstand worse if it had to.

What will happen to the seats in the stadium? Surely Houston sports fanatics would want to own one or two, right?

"I could see if any sports memorabilia companies would bid on them, I guess. Sell them in chunks. I don't think I could unload them all, though," Miller says. Selling of at least the balcony's rainbow guts would turn a dime, I presume. He doesn't seem in a hurry, though, to get rid of the Dome.

After walking through the Dome for two sweaty hours, I can say that I still want the thing to remain standing, although maybe just as a skeleton. A quick run-through will show you that it's not beyond repair with enough cash, but it's probably a lost cause.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
Krast Lee
Krast Lee

if you are a s-u-c-c-e-s-s-f-u-l person but s-i-n-g-l-e,please come here ,notice """love~wealthy~com-""" ,it can help you findyour perfect partner to enjoy your lifestyle with.

Krast Lee
Krast Lee

L_o_v_e__s_e_e_s__n_o__c_o_l_o_r.N_o_t_i_c_e__"""love~wealthy~com-"""W_here__l_o_v_e__out__of__walls.D_a_t_i_n_g__w_i_t_h__rich __singles and Admires___o_u_t__of__y_o_u_r__r_a_c_e____.

Donnie G Presswood
Donnie G Presswood

I loved and miss the astrodome as much as anyone hell i played the bar b que cookoff out in the parking lot in 1980-81 and the rodeo stage in the dome in 83 but as bad of shape as shes in and with the economy as is the smart thing to do is take her down and put that space back into parking lot which i have been told is desperately needed.

Cesar V
Cesar V

Great memories... Thank you very much

Readercatdog
Readercatdog

Yes, thanks for the memories. The Astrodome is a great place - too bad it will be discarded like all old stuff! We have a place here in Beaumont like that - an art deco Pig Stand restaurant (round, original booths and counter). Wish someone would be willing to figure out a great use for it. You are also correct that it will still be standing long after all the new places are gone if allowed to stand.

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

Wow thanks for the memories, I saw Evil Kneivel there, Polling Stones Steel Wheels Tour. Yea the acoustics sucked but ... I saw Mickey Mantle play there. Once when I was a kid my grandpa took me to the see the Astros, a line drive came right at us and he tried to catch it bare handed (he was a man) I'll never forget the sound that ball made when it hit his hand.Like a pistol going off, he told me sorry he just couldn't hang on to it. It was ok with me though I was so proud that he tried and got that close... Yes sir alot of memories were made in that stadium, yes indeed Thanks Mr. Hlavaty

 
Houston Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...