So Long, Farewell, RIP to the Astrodome

I have a memory of the Astrodome that I want to share. Of a Friday night in May of 1993, the Friday night before my law school graduation. I was working that night, handling the stats and graphics on the DiamondVision screen, something I did for most Astros games from 1989 through the end of the 1999 season. I don't really remember who the Astros were playing -- that doesn't matter, though, because my memory's got nothing to do with the actual game.

Back in those days, after the games ended, I'd go back to the press dining lounge with some of my coworkers, and I'd wait for the traffic to thin out, and yes, there was always traffic. We'd eat a sandwich, drink, talk about the game and how the Astros had screwed up. So the game ends and I go back to the lounge, find a table and fix a post-game meal.

What I slowly notice is that all of my coworkers are gathering in the lounge. That was kind of unusual because it was normally just four or five of us, the baseball diehards. But this night, it was the whole crew. And as I figure this out, my boss walks into the room and he's carrying a huge cake and the whole crew is congratulating me for getting through law school alive -- some of the press guys I've gotten to know also come over, and it's a grand night.

It's a memory that's mine, and mine alone. One that I'll always have, Astrodome or no Astrodome. And nothing, but for maybe Alzheimer's, will ever strip that memory from me. Even when there's no Dome, and it looks like there'll be no Dome, I'll always have that moment in time.

That's why the Astrodome referendum was defeated last week. It's not because the people of Houston are ignorant philistines who don't care about history or culture or art. It's because after years of being treated as an afterthought, the overseers of the Astrodome hatched a renovation plan so damn stupid that it depended on Quidditch tournaments as a source for generating revenue. And after years of funding unneeded sporting and convention facilities, the people of Houston said enough of getting stuck with the bill for seldom-used buildings built on fairy-tale dreams.

It's a sad ending. And it's disgusting to think that horrific sports arenas with no personality and that are poor copies of other, greater buildings will be left standing in place of the Astrodome. But it was an ending foretold when these same souls now crying about the fate of the Dome decided the Dome was an aging dump that needed to be cast aside so that Drayton McLane could have a new baseball-only park in downtown, and that instead of refurbishing the Astrodome, it was a better, far superior idea to build an aircraft hangar with a retractable roof that rarely opens.

Imaginative minds would've turned the Astrodome into a baseball-only ballpark for the Astros following the departure of the Oilers. Imaginative minds would've turned the Dome into a state-of-the-art football stadium for the Texans instead of building Reliant. Imaginative minds would've found a better use for the Astrodome than a welcoming gateway for Reliant Stadium. And now the same minds of those who couldn't figure out the way to actually make proper use of the Dome are belittling those who refused to build a new arena for Harry Potter and his friends.

The Dome has been dead for many, many years now. It died that day the iconic scoreboard was ripped out. It's been nothing more than a zombie ever since, lurching along unthinking from event to event, idiotic plan to idiotic plan. It's a shame that not one zero responsible party could come up with any better plan than what would be a seldom-used convention hall to save it, but all the place has been since 1988 is a political kicking ball, and now the kicking is stopping.

But here's the deal. I'm always going to have my memories. Of that surprise party for my law school graduation. Of that first time I ever saw Selena perform at the Rodeo. Of talking books with Larry Dierker and studying for law school finals between Jim Deshaies tosses to first base. The memories are greater than just a building. And the destruction of a building will not wipe away what I experienced, what I lived.

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