Discover / The Astrodome
Save a National Treasure
REGION: South
LOCATION:
Houston, TX
TYPE: Building
Save the Dome
Built in 1964, the Astrodome was the world’s first indoor, air conditioned stadium. | Photo: Ed Schipul
Opportunity
Save and reuse the world’s first indoor, domed stadium – an iconic piece of 20th century Americana.

Overview

The Astrodome is threatened with neglect and demolition. The NFL Oilers left Houston in 1996, the MLB Astros relocated to Minute Maid Park in 2000, and a new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans, began their run in 2002 in the new Reliant Stadium, which is adjacent to the Astrodome. In 2006, the final tenant moved out of the Dome, leaving Houston's "lonely landmark" without a use. Citing code violations, the City of Houston shuttered the structure in 2008. It remains vacant today.

In June 2013, the National Trust named the Astrodome to its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. That same month, the Harris County Sports and Convention Authority unveiled a proposal to renovate and redevelop the Dome into the world’s largest multipurpose events space. Dubbed the “New Dome Experience,” the plan sought to reinvent the Astrodome as the “front door to Reliant Stadium." By late summer, it was determined that the issue would go before voters on the November 5 ballot as Harris County Proposition 2 – a $217 million bond referendum.

Throughout the fall, the National Trust lead a coalition of preservation partners in a campaign to educate Harris County voters on Proposition 2. Unfortunately, the referendum was unsuccessful despite a close election in Harris County with over 112,000 voters expressing support for the county's plan to reuse the Dome.

Moving forward, the National Trust is working with Harris County Commissioners Court to identify alternative options for preserving and reusing this landmark.

National Significance

Constructed in 1964, the Astrodome was deemed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1965. As the world’s first indoor, air conditioned domed stadium, the 18-story multipurpose structure set the bar for arena design and construction for decades to come. A year after opening, it showcased the first installation of an artificial playing surface, soon to be known as Astroturf.

The Dome hosted a variety of sports and entertainment activities in its 40-plus year run. MLB’s Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers both claimed it as home field. It was the backdrop for the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match where Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs, as well as for Evel Knievel’s world-record-setting jump in 1971. Countless celebrities performed there, including Judy Garland, the Supremes, Elvis, Selena, and George Strait. It even witnessed major current events: The 1992 Republican Convention was held there, and thousands of evacuees from New Orleans took refuge under its roof after Hurricane Katrina.

With such a rich history, the Astrodome has been declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places both for its architectural and cultural significance.

Campaign Goals

  • Raise awareness of the national significance of the Astrodome.
  • Advocate for the reuse and preservation of the Dome.
  • Bring preservation expertise and resources to the reuse efforts.

Ways To Help

Contact Harris County Commissioners Court and urge them to save the Dome. 

Donate to our campaign to save the Astrodome.

Posted on July 30, 2014

Written by Beth Wiedower, Project Manager

Our work to save the Houston Astrodome continues. 

Efforts to secure the support of the Texas Historical Commission for the Astrodome’s designation as a State Antiquities Landmark stalled when the Commission voted to “table” the nomination for consideration at a future meeting. 

While not approved, the tabling motion does offer protection for the structure in the interim, as State Antiquities Landmark requirements, including review and permitting of any work performed at the Dome site, are now in effect.

Please check back for the more information in the coming weeks. And in the mean time, express your support for saving and reusing the Astrodome.

Please check back often for additional updates on The Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.


Posted on July 25, 2014

Written by Beth Wiedower, Project Manager

Summer is here in Houston, and the heat has definitely turned up around the Astrodome

Earlier this month, we saw the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans unveil yet another proposal to demolish the 8th Wonder of the World. But have no fear! Houstonians are rallying once again and urging Harris County Commissioners to save and reuse the iconic Dome.

In addition to this local outcry of support, the National Trust and the Our Astrodome Coalition are advocating to designate the Astrodome as a Texas State Antiquities Landmark, an important milestone in the path to protect the structure and set the stage for future reinvestment and reuse. 

Next week, National Trust staff, as well as our partners Preservation Houston and Houston Mod, will attend and present our case for protecting the Astrodome before the Texas Historical Commission in Alpine, Texas. As we prepare for this meeting, you can download a letter of support to the Texas Historical Commission from National Trust President Stephanie Meeks recommending approval of this important landmark designation. This letter will be presented to the Commission prior to their vote, which is expected on Thursday, July 31.

Please stay tuned here and on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this important designation. 

Posted on March 20, 2014

Written by Jason Clement, Team Member

Our grassroots advocacy to save the Astrodome continues to gain momentum. Since the election last November, over 2,500 supporters have petitioned Harris County Commissioners Court to save the 8th Wonder. And people are paying attention!

Check out this great letter we received last week from Commissioner El Franco Lee, and if you haven't already, take a moment to add your name to the growing list of supporters who are calling on Harris County officials to save the Dome.

*****************************************

Dear Astrodome Supporters,

I want to voice my appreciation for receiving hundreds of emails from Astrodome supporters. Also, I want to thank the National Trust for Historic Preservation for generating this campaign.

As you may know, voters in November rejected the proposal to spend public money to repurpose the Dome. Harris County officials will abide by that decision. The election, however, was not a referendum to tear down the historic structure.

The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation – which manages and develops the Astrodomain/Reliant Park Complex – continues to look at ideas that do not require public funding to repurpose the Dome. I remain steadfast in my support of the Astrodome, which I still believe can be saved from demolition.

It’s also reassuring to know that hundreds of people are behind that effort. We will keep you posted on any developments.

Sincerely,

El Franco Lee

Precinct One Harris County Commissioner

*****************************************

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome

Posted on January 31, 2014

Written by Jason Clement, Team Member

The Houston Astrodome is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the our country’s historic places worthy of preservation.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

While this is a great development in our effort to save the 8th Wonder of the World, designation does not automatically protect against demolition. Instead, it triggers state and federal preservation laws that require government agencies to take into consideration the effect of their plans or projects on listed properties.

Please celebrate this milestone with us by contacting Harris County Commissioners Court and letting them know that you stand with the Dome. It only takes a minute.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on January 03, 2014

The National Trust’s work and the preservation effort to save the Astrodome are featured in an article in the Jan. 6, 2014 issue of ESPN the magazine. The piece highlights the historical importance of the landmark venue and how two national trends are contributing to the challenge of reuse of the Astrodome: a public distaste for late-modern architecture and the disposability of stadiums. Stories like this are a reminder of the Astrodome’s national importance and the importance of securing a vibrant, sustainable future for the Astrodome. We will continue our advocacy efforts in Houston and encourage Harris County residents to request that their local officials support preservation of the venue.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on December 17, 2013

Written by Jason Clement, Team Member

Save the DomeSo, what’s happening with the Astrodome?

That’s a question that has plagued Houstonians for years – if not decades – and today, we’re no closer to answering it. Here’s why.

Prior to Election Day, it was widely speculated that demolition would begin almost immediately if Harris County did not pass Proposition 2, a bond measure to turn the Dome into the world’s largest special events space. Fast forward to today, and we have a failed ballot initiative, but only the building’s non-historic features have come down. The intense “should it stay or should it go” chatter has quieted, and the Dome was noticeably absent from the agenda of the county’s last meeting.

It’s like someone turned off the stove, but left the pot.

Because the Astrodome is Harris County property, all eyes are on the judge and the county commissioners – the five elected officials who, sooner rather than later, will have to make the call. Since Election Day, this group has taken great care to consider the three most likely options: private development, a public-private partnership, or demolition.

In that time, they have not only expressed disappointment over low voter turnout, but that they still want to hear from people who want to save the Dome. Still.

That’s where we need your help. Please contact these Harris County officials today and let them know you support saving the Dome.

Even if you don’t live in Harris County, you can still show your support for this architectural marvel, the Eighth Wonder of the World. We’ve created an easy-to-use form where you can email the judge and commissioners, all with one click.

Saving places is never easy and rarely straightforward, but when you believe in something, you stay your course. And we believe in the Dome.

We hope you do, too.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 14, 2013

Written by Beth Wiedower, Project Manager

Disappointment.

That’s the general sentiment of the Astrodome National Treasures team in Houston this week. On Election Day, the majority of Harris County voters did not support Proposition 2 to fund the redevelopment and reuse of the iconic Astrodome (47% FOR, 53% AGAINST) into the world’s largest special events space.  

Despite more than 111,000 votes to “Save the Dome,” the fate of this Modernist marvel is still unknown. Prior to the election, Harris County leaders stated that demolition was the likely alternative, though they have since backed off from that sentiment. 

The Our Astrodome Coalition reached an estimated 10,000 people during our campaign. Our conversations ranged from memories of the first Astros game in the Dome, to Elvis and Selena concerts, to the infamous Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Houstonians’ passion for the Astrodome is indisputable. 

And love for the Dome flowed from well beyond Houston as well. Articles calling for the preservation and reuse of the Astrodome graced the pages of the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and the Washington Post, among many, many others. Through our work on the ground we have raised the profile and the plight of the world’s first domed stadium to the national level.

What’s next for the Eighth Wonder of the World? That is yet to be determined. We will work diligently in the coming weeks and months on our continued advocacy for the Dome.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 30, 2013

Written by Andy Grabel, Team Member

Hundreds of passionate preservationists, including football legend Earl Campbell, have visited the Dome Mobile since the National Trust and local partners began a two-week tour of Houston last week to raise support for saving the Astrodome.

Many proud Houstonians have written their Astrodome memories and support for preserving it on the inside of the 26-foot long truck. Astrodome advocates gathered at 8th Wonder Brewery last Saturday to raise a glass and share their love of the historic venue. Having made stops across the city, the Dome Mobile continues its tour this weekend with key stops at an Astrodome yard sale on Saturday morning and at the tailgate before the Texans game at Reliant Park on Sunday afternoon. 

The tour continues through Tuesday, November 5, when Harris County voters will decide the Astrodome's fate.

Pledge your support today and don't forget to stay up-to-date on our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 23, 2013

Dome mobile

Written by Andy Grabel, Team Member

In efforts to save the Astrodome, the National Trust and preservation partners have kicked off a campaign to motivate Houston residents to support the reuse of the iconic stadium. Leading up to the vote on November 5, events will take place throughout the city and they aren't going unnoticed. This morning, the Dallas Morning News, along with other media, wrote about the efforts.

Pledge your support today and don't forget to stay up-to-date on our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on September 16, 2013

Written by Beth Wiedower, Project Manager

Local and national preservation groups have joined forces to work alongside the "New Dome Experience" to galvanize public support for revitalizing the Houston Astrodome as a special events venue. On November 5, Harris County voters will decide the stadium’s fate when they vote on Proposition 2, which would fund redevelopment of the world’s first domed stadium.

The preservation coalition is comprised of the National Trust, Preservation Houston, Houston Mod, American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Houston, and Houston Arts and Media. The group  is collaborating on an effort to educate the public about the referendum that would raise as much as $217 million to reuse the vacant Astrodome, which appeared on the National Trust’s 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List and is part of the organization’s National Treasures program. National Treasures is a portfolio of highly-significant endangered historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to finding a preservation solution.

“A vote for the referendum is a vote to invigorate a symbol of Houston’s pioneering spirit and a nationally-recognized landmark, while serving an important need in the community for event space and as an economic driver for the region,” said Beth Wiedower, senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The annual average cost to each Harris County taxpayer to bring the Astrodome back to life is far less than the cost to park at Reliant Stadium on a single game day.”

Opened in 1965 and quickly deemed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome has been primarily vacant since 2006. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation’s reuse plan, “The New Dome Experience,” would provide an alternate and complementary location for events when Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center and Reliant Arena are unavailable or unsuitable. The plan is designed to attract new and significant events, attractions and revenue to Harris County and will have a multiplier effect throughout the Houston metropolitan area. 

“It's an honor to be one of the leaders of this effort to save the Astrodome and bring together a coalition of local and national groups. They have the resources and expertise that will make this a success for all of Harris County,” said Jon Lindsay, co-chair of the New Dome Pac Campaign. “This coalition has the ability to reach out to the residents of Harris County and revitalize the Dome, making it a world stage again.”

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on July 12, 2013

Written by Beth Wiedower, Project Manager

Within hours of the National Trust’s announcement of 2013’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation unveiled its bold proposal to preserve and reuse the iconic Astrodome.

The plan, dubbed the “New Dome Experience,” proposes to save the Dome by creating multi-purpose special event space, making the Dome accessible to current and future generations of Houstonians and visitors. The proposal is visionary and embodies the same innovation, energy, and “can-do” spirit that created the engineering marvel that is the Astrodome when it was built in 1964. 

Although the proposal is encouraging, the threat to the Astrodome is far from resolved. As a county-owned facility, the proposal must gain the approval of the governing body and public support in the form of a successful referendum in a public election.

It is this uphill climb that prompted the National Trust to declare the Astrodome as its newest National Treasure in a recent Houston Chronicle op-ed.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Astrodome. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

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, , , , , Glenda Ireland on August 18, 2014
My father, Chester Brown, worked for American Bridge, the company that constructed the steel frame and ceiling for the Astrodome. I have attached pictures taken in about 1963 as the walls and ceiling began to be constructed. Dad's boom was long enough to lift the 2nd to most inner ring. His co-worker had the longer boom that lifted the last ring in place. I hope you enjoy these. I thought they would add to the history of the building of the dome. My dad worked in construction around the city from 1944 till about 1988. He was very proud to have worked on many amazing building in the city.
Shirley Virdon on July 16, 2014
We want to SAVE the Astrodome for all the others who have never seen it and had the privilege of watching baseball games there and those who know how very unique it was in 1965 when it opened. Please SAVE the Astrodome!!!
Brendan A. Cooney on October 15, 2013
I would like to find out what are the requirements to enter into your program "Saving Historic Places" I submitted an Astrodome Proposal to the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation which at one point I believe it was approved. Although, the HCSCC decided for the Astrodome to have a different purpose, if their proposal does not pass, would you be interested in seeing my proposal and what it has to offer. Could you please let me know. Thank you, Brendan Cooney

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