With plans for the future of the Astrodome still in limbo, one man who has a direct connection to the eighth wonder of the world says he hopes local officials can find an economically feasible way to spare it from the wrecking ball. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, former Houston mayor Fred Hofheinz still clearly remembers the first baseball game inside the dome on April 9, 1965.
“Mel Steiner working the plate. Farrell all set to throw the first pitch. And here’s the wind-up and the first pitch of the ballgame and it’s a ball low and outside.”
“You remember the first home run by Mickey Mantle. You remember that Lyndon Johnson was sitting next to you in the so-called Judge’s Box. You remember the crowd who were in awe of the building because most of the people who were in the building that night, it was the first time they had ever seen it. It was a moment to remember and I think everybody that was there that night remembers.”
Fred Hofheinz remembers more than most people about the early days of the Dome. It was his dad, former Harris County Judge and Houston Mayor Roy Hofheinz who built it in the early 1960’s and moved what were then the Colt .45’s into the first covered, air-conditioned stadium in Major League Baseball.
“The folklore is that he got that idea while looking at the Coliseum in Rome. Well, I was with him there at the Coliseum in Rome that time and I don’t think that that’s the truth. I think he really got the idea when he went to the World’s Fair in Montreal and saw Buckminster Fuller’s then what they called geodesic dome. It fascinated him.”
Harris County Officials hope to have a plan for the Dome soon. They’re still negotiating with an investor group that wants to turn it into a hotel and convention center, but as of earlier this week, are open to other options as well. Hofheinz says he doesn’t want to see the Astrodome go away.
“Any way that you can make economic utility out of the building at this point that will save the building would be good. So if they can do that, wonderful. I would like to see the building preserved over time in some way that actually makes an economic contribution to the community. So I encourage those people working on it to keep working.”
It appears county officials aren’t the only ones working on the future of the Dome. The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has started an online petition to let officials know citizens want the Dome spared. The Alliance’s David Bush says Houstonians feel a connection with the Astrodome, a place that’s hosted an Elvis Concert, Evel Knievel motorcycle jumps, rodeo’s, circuses, even tennis matches and bullfights.
“The building had an effect on really millions of people’s lives and when people didn’t know anything else about Houston, they knew about the Astrodome. It was a huge source of pride for the city and still is.”
Bush says it’s important to let officials know the people own the Astrodome and should have input on what happens to in the future.
“In Houston, preservation always comes down to what the owner wants and we’re trying to remind people that the taxpayers of Harris County paid to build the Dome, they’re paying to maintain the Dome so they need to have a say in what happens with the Dome.”
You can find a link to the online petition on our website, KUHF.org.