Astrodome Abandoned to Skid Row in 2000

The Astrodome Friday Morning June 12, 2015

The Astrodome
Friday Morning
June 12, 2015

It’s not like the old days. of course, but the run of special times at the Astrodome plays on.

Last year, we were among those who purchased a pair of Astrodome seats in the 2014 first public  sale. Then, on June 4, 2015, Bob Dorrill and I went to the Astrodome to pick up two special stadium seats for Jimmy Wynn. And earlier, at the April 9, 2015 50th Anniversary Party to celebrate the Houston Astros’ first game of all time in the then brand new Astrodome, and against Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees, no less, we were among the approximate 30,000 fans who flocked to the Astrodome to see again and pay homage to the “old girl” we all know better as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Front: Jimmy and Marie Wynn Back: Steve Archer & Shawn Bouley Astrodome Seat Stand Sale June 12, 2015

Front: Jimmy and Marie Wynn
Back: Steve Archer & Shawn Bouley
Astrodome Seat Stand Sale
June 12, 2015

June 12, 2015 was a special morning we spent with Jimmy and Marie Wynn at the Dome Seat Stand Sale conducted by Steve Archer of Philadelphia and ably assisted by NRG Properties Manager Shawn Bouley. Jimmy and I were even able to sell quite a few copies of our “Toy Cannon” book to a very appreciative audience – and Steve and Shawn did everything they could to make us all feel welcomed. It was great just watching the fans approaching Jimmy Wynn to say hello, thank him, and share their memories of him. – And almost all of the fans  mentioned one of Jimmy’s most famous monster homers, especially the ball that he launched into the gold seat section in high left field so long ago.- No doubt about it. – Jimmy Wynn is one of the most loved figures in all of Houston’s sports history.

But there have been other memories in months – and some new ugly realizations.

April 9, 2015 was a bittersweet beautiful day. I got the impression from crowd chatter that most people who had come that day had brought with them every thought and emotion imaginable in the life space that exists between the portals of “hello” and “goodbye”. A good many of us, I think, or project, (take your pick), approached the party as a conveniently unexpected encounter opportunity to run into, one more time, that special young love that was lost to our reach so many years ago. How would it be to see the Astrodome up close again? We knew going in that her youthful electricity was now spent, but, let’s be fair. She’s fared no worse than many of us to the physical ravages of aging.

To make our experience with being around the Dome in the presence of so many others of good spirit, and that image especially includes all the parents of young children who were all trying to use the gathering as a time to try and teach their kids what “the great hall that changed the game of ball” once was like, the atmosphere was one of hello to an old love that never really went away. She simply got chewed up by the politics of abandonment that ensued from the gut-wounding demands for more seats by Bud Adams of the NFL Oilers.

Adams got his extra seats, unfortunately, but it cost the Astrodome its magical scoreboard – and it soured the inner sense of uniqueness that even the grand old Dome had over all the other multipurpose venues she prototyped in her first decade of life. And, even after all that concession to one man’s greed, Adams still abandoned Houston and the Dome, taking his cookies to Nashville – and, sadly, now leaving Drayton McLane with an aesthetic dislike for the boring new look of the Dome’s interior that now nicely leveraged our fear of also losing the MLB Astros to relocation too – unless public monies could be used to build a new retro-looking baseball park downtown.

McLane got his wish too, but he didn’t really do this to us. A lot us supported the idea of a venue that looked more like the baseball park of our nascent dreams. We too had become bored with the sameness look of the Dome, but that was bound to happen over time with age and familiarity. The stationary roof guaranteed that after thirty years of regular use, that all games would come to look alike, with controlled indoor lighting and no variable weather to break the haze of “same look/different day” that over time had gone from excitement to boredom – and  with no option available for openness on good weather days to open up things to the sky because of the permanent roof, stirring the ambient excitement.of the now too drab interior could only have happened with an imaginative proactive plan for internal change. That never really happened on the scale it required – and people were simply unaware that just around the corner of the 21st century lay the makings of a digital technology explosion that could have provided the Astrodome with all the internal changes it needed to keep fans entertained by the uniqueness of varied visual touches that would help keep the interior exciting on a dynamic basis.

That’s right. The Astrodome didn’t need abandonment in the latter years of the 20th century. She needed the equivalent of a mid-life makeover. She had reached the age of needing a facelift beyond the flowers that Mr. McLane, to his credit, had tried to use as bright spots on the dull walls of a drab interior.  It just wasn’t enough. And the loss of the great scoreboard for Mr. Adams’ extra seats most probably was the dagger to the heart of our aging beauty. After the big scoreboard was removed and the extra Oilers seats were installed, it was virtually all of us who acted in support of building what is now Minute Maid Park who became contributors also to the dire straits that are now  the Astrodome’s current state of dilapidation. And that last sweep includes team owners, our local governing bodies, special business interest groups – and us fans too. Ugly, but true.

All of us – we allowed the construction of the new baseball park without insisting upon an Astros exit plan that would have spelled out a proactive business agenda for what then would become of the Astrdome. Never happened. We all jumped away to our new ballpark like kids dropping an old toy for the new and shiny one – or an old wife for a young one. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t remember a single article or community discussion of any consequence about the future of the Astrodome back in 1996-99. And we missed our best shot at a plan that could have given her an earlier, full to partial renewal – by either saying goodbye to Mr. Adams before we allowed him to force the loss of our scoreboard – or in conjunction with the Astros’ plan to move downtown, insisting upon an acceptable new business plan for the Dome as a condition for approving any public monies for a new baseball venue. We just didn’t do it. Nobody did.

Maybe this is what that one older stranger I heard muttering really meant when I passed him on the sidewalk beside the Dome back on April 9th. The man was just standing there, facing the Astrodome, with arms folded, as he stared intently at our mammoth architectural icon , shaking his head – and muttering to no one in particular beyond himself.

“This never should have happened,” the man spoke into the wind, without even so much as breaking the stillness of his concentration.

This time, if this really is a last ditch opportunity to get it done, we had better get it right. Otherwise, our “true love” for the Astrodome doesn’t go away. It just converts into an unrecoverable grief over our loss of this first-of–a-kind love to our collective misunderstanding of what all those abandonment symptoms and actions were really about back in the 1990s. And the loss of true love doesn’t really ever go away. It haunts the soul of the grieving survivor like the meanest demon from hell.

Astros-Emojis 01

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One Response to “Astrodome Abandoned to Skid Row in 2000”

  1. prisonerno6 Says:

    I guess Houston fell for the every other team has a new stadium why not us scenario. I was hoping that there would have been a way to remove the extra seats to re-install a state of the art scoreboard and possibly retrofitting a full or semi-retractable roof. But I just knew that when the Texas Rangers opened their new stadium in 1994 that Houston would soon follow with a new stadium of their own.

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