Houston Astrodome, Houston Texas
Originally called the Harris County Domed Stadium, the Astrodome was completed in 1964. Conceived as the home of the Houston Colts and the Houston Oilers, it was termed by many as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was the first time that a stadium was built for both baseball and football that was totally enclosed and fully air-conditioned. The building covers 9.14 acres of land. Circular in shape, the outer diameter of the Astrodome is 710', and the clear span of the dome roof is 642'. Houston's baseball and football teams no longer use the Astrodome. The Astros now play at Minute Maid Park, and the Houston Texans play at Reliant Stadium.
In the 1960s, many businessmen pondered over the possibility of bringing a national baseball team to Houston, Texas. However, the challenges in Houston appeared to be insurmountable, not from the point of view of patronage and fan support for the game, but from the vagaries of the Houston weather coupled with heat, humidity, and mosquitoes that would make either playing or watching ballgames an unpleasant experience. However, one businessman dared to dream about a fully air-conditioned stadium, which had never been done before. This man was Roy M. Hofheinz (1912- 1982), a Houston politician and entrepreneur. He had the distinction of being the Harris County judge from 1936 to 1944, and then mayor of Houston from 1953 to 1955. After serving as the Harris County judge, he became known as Judge Roy Hofheinz for the rest of his life.
Hofheinz and his business partner, Robert (Bob) E. Smith created the Houston Sports Association with the goal of getting a major league franchise in Houston. In order the build the world's first air-conditioned stadium, the Houston Sports Association needed the Harris County voters to approve a public bond issue planned for February 1961. This was a daunting task considering that Judge Roy Hofheinz and Bob Smith needed the support of African American voters. They decided to elicit help from Mr. Quentin R. Mease, a World War II Air Force veteran and one of Houston's most respected and influential African Americans. Mr. Mease and the other African American leaders agreed to campaign for the bond issue on the condition that the new stadium be opened as an integrated facility. This had become an important issue since it was only in 1960 that various lunch counters in Houston had become integrated. Judge Roy Hofheinz and Bob Smith both agreed to Quentin Mease's condition, and the bond issue of $42,000,000 was passed to pay for the project.
Once the commitment had been made to build a new air-conditioned stadium, the Houston Sports Association got its major league franchise, the Houston Colt 45's who played in a temporary stadium adjacent to the Astrodome.
At the time the Astrodome was completed, the United States had entered into the space age with the NASA facility located in Houston. The prefix "Astro" not only became popular but also synonymous with gigantic. Judge Roy Hofheinz renamed the Houston Colt 45's to the Astros, and the Harris County Domed Stadium became known as the Astrodome. The dream of Judy Roy Hofheinz had become a reality, and he branded the Astrodome the "Eighth Wonder of the World."