The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome

The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome

The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome

The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome

Synopsis

When it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome, nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World, captured the attention of an entire nation, bringing pride to the city and enhancing its reputation nationwide. It was a Texas-sized vision of the future, an unthinkable feat of engineering with premium luxury suites, theater-style seating, and the first animated scoreboard. Yet there were memorable problems such as outfielders' inability to see fly balls and failed attempts to grow natural grass--which ultimately led to the development of Astroturf. The Astrodome nonetheless changed the way people viewed sports, putting casual fans at the forefront of a user-experience approach that soon became the standard in all American sports.

The Eighth Wonder of the World tears back the facade and details the Astrodome's role in transforming Houston as a city while also chronicling the building's pivotal fifty years in existence and the ongoing debate about its preservation.

Excerpt

Mickey Herskowitz

This is what God would do if he had the money.

— One writer’s reaction after his first view of
the Harris County Domed Stadium

The fans dressed as if they were attending an opera. the president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, was there, a guest in the private box and lavish apartment of Judge Roy Hofheinz, hidden behind the fence high above right field. the Reverend Billy Graham and the original seven Mercury astronauts were there, along with every local politician and personality physically able to appear in public.

The governor of Texas, John Connally, threw out the first pitch.

This was April 9, 1965, the first of two opening nights for the Astrodome, the world’s first indoor, air-conditioned, all-weather sports stadium. Yes, the Dome was so nice they opened it twice.

The official league unveiling would come three days later, with the Phillies winning, 2–0. But the opponents that night were the New York Yankees, whose immortal Mickey Mantle struck the first indoor home run. Still, the Astros won in twelve innings on a pinch single by Nellie Fox, a player-coach and future Hall of Famer. His primary job at the time was to groom a young second baseman named Joe Morgan, another future Hall of Famer.

All of the exploits and all of the famous faces were overshadowed, of course, by the object of everyone’s curiosity: the big bubble that loomed eighteen stories above the playing field.

As the debate continued in 2015 over the fate of what became known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” it seems only fitting to revisit that starry, starry night. We tend to forget that even as . . .

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