The Surprisingly Interesting Story of the Birth and Death of the Astrodome

AstrodomeOur man from Minnesota, James Fillmore wrote a very interesting article over at his post at Twinkie Town, The Original Field Of Dreams. It’s about the creation of the Astrodome. I have a personal interest in that because the only MLB game I’ve seen outside the Bay Area was in the Astrodome — in the early 1970s: the Reds against the Astros. I knew nothing of the Astros, but I knew Johnny Bench. And I knew Pete Rose. And I probably knew other players at that time. As I recall, the Reds were a very famous team then.

The article contains all kind of information that I never knew. To start with, the team’s name was changed from the Colt 45s (Ugh!) to the Astros, following the name of the stadium, which was a hat tip to NASA being headquartered in Houston. And apparently, NASA scientists had some involvement in the project. It is an amazing thing. These kinds of things are everywhere now, but then it was cutting edge. I’ve always wondered way the first of these was made in Houston where the weather is generally good. But as Fillmore pointed out in his article: it was all about the money. One of the owners, Roy Hofheinz, was super connected to the state government — a fact that future owners would use to steal public funds for their private endeavors.

But the most interesting part of the story is about the turf. The Astrodome was built with a roof which was “a latticework of metal and glass-ish plastic, it allowed sunlight to glow inside and grow real grass for the field.” Brilliant! Real grass! That’s great. But as everyone knows, that didn’t work out so well. The reason was because it created a huge amount of glare. The players had a hard time fielding balls. So the owners did the obvious thing: they painted over the plastic. Problem solved!

Of course, it created a new problem: the lack of sunlight caused the grass to die. So, “The Astros finished 1965 playing on a field of dead grass, spray-painted green.” There was nothing, the Astros management seemed to think, that could not be solved with a coat of paint! But that only worked for so long. As Fillmore explained:

They installed “Chemical Grass” the next year, whose manufacturer (Monsanto) quickly renamed it “AstroTurf.” Which I believe you are all familiar with. As you are its later competitor, “FieldTurf,” supposedly more grass-like but having the drawback of looking like a carpet with mange. And you know about the domed stadiums that followed.

So it was Monsanto! Of course it was Monsanto! And speaking of corporate criminals, the Astrodome was the first stadium to create “luxury boxes” — where rich jerks can right off expensive game viewing as a business deduction because they are “entertaining” other rich jerks. Of course, all that is gone now. The Astros left the stadium in 2000. It’s last “event” was to shelter victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the people of Houston want to find a use for it. It once represented the future. It’s kind of like having an actual Commodore 64 running Castle Wolfenstein in your study. Sure, there are more advanced things, but nothing more wonderful.

2 thoughts on “The Surprisingly Interesting Story of the Birth and Death of the Astrodome

  1. Awwwwww! I’m glad you liked it, though. I’ve learned that the more work I put into research, the more fun it is to choose my favorite bits from that research and share them. How you and others who actually spend effort double-checking their claims can do so every day mystifies me. It’s exhausting!

    It’s odd when you write on the Net. There’s no standard footnote protocol. You can make something a hyperlink and highlight it so it seems like a source and you’ve done your homework. It’d be better if there was a way to highlight text so if people put their mouse arrow on it, it would pop up whether it’s a source or interesting further reading, whatever. I’ve seen that but it’s not available to all writers the way hyperlinks are. And of course that doesn’t work with current smartphones.

    Bottom line, thanks so much for reading, and I’m glad you found stuff you enjoyed in it. Payback 1/1000 for how much I enjoy the work here.

    • I like the way that Wikipedia does references — the way they pop up with the information and links if they are applicable. But this general observation is one of many reasons I like WordPress over Nucleus. Having the article title in the URL is really helpful for users.

      Anyway, I really liked the article. It was quite interesting. I suspect there is a whole book there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *