At 50, Houston Astrodome Remains in Limbo

This Thursday will mark 50 years since the opening of the "Eighth Wonder of the World," which closed its doors several years ago and faces an uncertain future. City officials haven't decided whether to tear it down after voters rejected a referendum to approve $217 million in bonds for a refurbishment.

Mickey Mantle homered in the April 9, 1965, exhibition between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros that opened the building, but the home team won that day. The Astros played in the stadium until 1999 and the NFL's Houston Oilers left for Tennessee after the 1996 season.

What once was a flashy, ahead-of-its-time sign of Houston's burgeoning ambitions now stands unused and without a plan. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett previously told the Houston Chronicle that annual maintenance on the building still costs $166,000 and that "just leaving the Dome in place to deteriorate has never been an option."

It took a $63,000 power wash in November to clear black streaks that had formed on the outside of the building.

James Glassman, founder of the preservation group Houstorian, said he wanted to keep the Dome as a monument to the city.

"We certainly have plenty to celebrate," he said. "Let's feel tiny underneath the massive structure and contemplate our own place in the universe."

Emmett has suggested creating an indoor park or recreation area, or possibly demolishing it.

"I'm no great architect," said Fred Hofheinz, a former Houston mayor whose father, famous ex-Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz, helped bring the Astrodome to fruition. "But I think over the years it's had a greater shelf life than a lot of more complex places because the Dome was very simple. You take a fish and turn it upside down, and there it is. I think the simplicity is part of what has helped it endure."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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