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"The Eighth Wonder of the World," according to its creator, Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome was the home of baseball's Houston Astros from 1965 to 1999 and football's Houston Oilers from 1965 until 1996 (when they moved to Nashville and became the Tennessee Titans). The first indoor venue built mainly for outdoor sports, the Astrodome was officially titled Harris County Domed Stadium, and was built for 35 million dollars using mostly public money.

Houston was granted a major league baseball team in 1961, and the Houston Colt .45's began play in the open-air Colt Stadium. But the heat of summer in Texas prompted the team to look into enclosed alternatives after many fans and players required medical assistance during one doubleheader. Astros owner Roy Hofheinz had already been thinking of building a wondrous domed shopping mall, but realized that a ballpark would work just as well. He hired Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, to design his new stadium, and ground was broken in 1962.

The Astrodome originally had a playing field of natural grass, and the dome had translucent panels to allow sunlight for the grass to grow. But in their first season in 1965, this design revealed a fatal flaw - it was nearly impossible for outfielders to see a fly ball against the glare from the white roof. So a week into the season, they added a coating to the roof to reduce glare. This let the outfielders see the ball, but unfortunately killed the grass. After the season, the Astros turned to Monsanto, who designed an artificial grass for use at the Astrodome - named Astroturf.

For most of its existence, the Astrodome played as the worst home run park in all of baseball; in addition to spacious dimension, including the longest power alleys in the major leagues, fly balls seemed to die in the recycled air inside the dome. This led the Astros to build teams around pitching and defense; in 1980 the Astros won the National League West despite no player on the team hitting more home runs than Terry Puhl's 13. Pitchers, on the hand, excelled, led by J. R. Richard in the 70's, Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott in the 80's, and Mike Hampton in the 90's.

The Astrodome ushered in an era of large multi-purpose sports facilities that might have been technologically impressive but lacked the character of earlier ballparks - see Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium and the Kingdome. Recently this trend has been reversed as "retro" ballparks, led by Baltimore's Camden Yards, have been replacing the "cookie cutter" parks of the 60's and 70's. The Astros followed this trend in 2000, moving into the much smaller Enron Field, which has a retractable roof.

The Astrodome is 710 feet in diameter and 208 feet high. An eighteen story building would fit easily inside the dome. The Dome itself covers over 9 1/2 acres of ground, and the playing field is actually 25 feet below street level. Lighting the field consumes more electricity than a city of 9000 would use. The Astrodome was the first stadium to use separate Astroturfs for baseball and football, each kept in a pit in center field and rolled out on a cushion of air. The Astrodome can seat over 63,000 people. It is commonly said that the biggest crowd ever at the Astrodome was 65,943 at the Houston Oilers vs Kansas City Chiefs playoff game in 1994. The truth, however, is that the largest paying crowd ever at the Astrodome was for a performance of Tejano singing star Selena at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1995, where 66,994 fans crowded the stadium. This was Selena's last major public appearance before her death in March 1995.

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