On Monday night, tens of thousands of fans, historians, politicians and dreamers descended upon the Astrodome for one last peek at the collection of cherished memories and decades of childhood dreams. Weeks ago, and hours after 25,000 free tickets were released, they were gone. “We love the Astrodome,” fans shouted and cheered when asked why they had come. Its been over half a century since the Astrodome opened its doors to the first game played on a natural grass field. Now Houstonians and fans waited in line for upwards to three hours to walk back inside the dome and across the field, zig-zagging through dioramas and memorabilia. Even after the long wait and drizzly weather, it did not put a damper on the true believers that the Astrodome would be saved.
I myself, who only moved here eight years ago, was filled with excitement to walk down the ramp as the legendary skylit dome presented itself in one of the most beautiful stadiums ever built. Even in the midwest, the Astrodome was remembered as one of the most iconic stadiums. The history of this now-monumental landmark was thick in the air, and as you gazed up at the old press boxes, beers banners, and row after row of seats, you could imagine the lights, excitement and roaring crowds electrified with hometown pride.
“Man the Astrodome was everything when I was growing up,” stated local celebrated artist Gonzo at the event. “I remember coming here to watch games with family, catching concerts, and seeing one of the best stunt shows ever rocketing motorcycles through hoops and launching the riders into nets dropped from the ceiling.”
In 2007, Ed Emmett began his quest to revive the Astrodome, sparking the conversation of what we value as a city and what it is we preserve. The Astrodome needs to stay, Emmett repeated time and time again. As with any conversation on the topic, it wasn’t long after that the rumors of the tearing down of the Dome began. The entire city, as well as the state, spoke up against this action. The conversation was hard to avoid at any bar, ballgame or public gathering. Proposals flooded social media and local publications as to what should be done with the Astrodome and the importance it had to Texas history. Coined the “8th Wonder of the World,” The Astrodome was side by side with NASA as Houston’s pride, joy and pulse of the city.
In 2013, Preservation Houston with the National Trust for Historic Preservation joined forces and began to help spearhead the project. Groups banded together with pins, stickers, and protested, fueling Emmett’s intentions and starting the real battle. After many ups and downs within the argument, the Astrodome became a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places by 2014, and last year became a State Antiquities Landmark.
The Dome would remain! County Judge Ed Emmett praised the day had finally come. The Domecoming Party was needed to show the people of Houston and the state of Texas what their perseverance could accomplish and that the City of Houston was listening to its citizens. The rustic, cracked and broken Astrodome would soon undergo a spectacular face lift to begin in just a few months, and in two years a new Astrodome will be revealed.
“This event was very important for us. We wanted to give everyone one last time to come here and to see the Astrodome the way it was. In just two years from now when we renovate and raise the floor up everyone will be able to come back and get to see the new construction,” says County Judge Ed Emmett. “Obviously 25,000 tickets went in just over an hour and shows us how bad our city wants to come and see it and well this is their time.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner goes on to state to Houston Free Press, “Judge Ed Emmett has really carried this Astrodome on his shoulders. He has worked so hard to keep the Astrodome, preserving it, and keeping it a functional space. The Astrodome IS Houston! So many came to know Houston via The Astrodome. As a native Houstonian I grew up with the Astrodome. It’s our very own 8th Wonder of the World and I am proud to say it will be here to stay.”
The crowd and line grew and grew as the energy in and outside the Astrodome bubbled over. Fans celebrated amongst food trucks, Astrodome merch vendors, 8th Wonder Brewery, and listened to keynote speakers deliver heartwarming memories of the Dome and the journey it has gone through to remain as a pillar of the city. Bands played alongside of the original Dome’s team songs as children and adults alike danced arm in arm. Vintage Oiler and Astro jackets were dusted off and Astrodome costumes pulled out of boxes to prove the local spirit was strong. As the night began to fall, the last hundreds hustled through the barriers to soak in the Astrodome history and get the prized photograph with our coveted Astros World Series Trophy which perfectly capped the magical evening. The Astrodome was more celebrated more than ever before, and Houstonians left the grounds already eagerly anticipating the Grand Re Opening in 2020.