1961: County Voters Approve “Plush” Stadium

Harris County voters didn’t know they were approving $22 million dollars in tax bonds for the construction of something called an “Astrodome” back on February 1, 1961 because that name didn’t come around until shortly before the brand new place’s usable completion in 1965. We just thought we were getting a “plush” new stadium with an often talked about, but never before done on this scale – stadium with a roof – and one with air conditioning that would protect big league baseball in our town from the not-s0-nice aspects of our Houston summer “rains-too-often-and-shines-too-hot-and humid” climate.

“Plush” was a word we understood back in February of 1961. “Astrodome” would be the final class of a three-part speed course we would get from Professor Roy Hofheinz during spring training prior to the 1965 NL season. Remember, 1965 was not only the first season the team would be playing in the brand new posh stadium. It was also the time in which Prof/Judge Hofheinz changed the name of the Houston club from Colt. 45s to “Astros” as he simultaneously gave the new Harris County Domed Stadium it’s more rhythmic historical unofficial name – The Astrodome.

When we learned what an “Astro” supposedly is, some of us wondered why we needed a change of team names. After all, in their first three NL seasons, the Colt .45s already were doing a fairly credible job of falling to earth each time like a bunch of gravity-controlled space rocks. Did we really want to further encourage that behavior in a beautiful new stadium with a damageable roof?

Well, it all worked out, didn’t it? OK, it did take us an extra 52 years to finally win our first World Series, but we we’ve got it. And we’re never going to give it back. And things look good for us winning a few more, even doing a back-to-back capture here in 2018.

We did get used to thinking of our first ground-breaking covered stadium as “The Astrodome” pretty fast. And we also started coming up with several seasons in which our “Astros” played a whole lot better than we might have ever expected from a team named after falling space rocks. Those weren’t the problem.

The problem was – somewhere in the 1990s – probably around the time that we let Bud Adams of the old NFL Oilers coerce the County and the Astros into taking down the big scoreboard for the sake of putting in more empty seats – we stopped thinking of the Astrodome as “plush” – and that led former Astros owner Drayton McLane into wanting to move the baseball club.

Maybe things would have come to this point, anyway. By the time the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee in the mid-1990s, the Astrodome was still the first of its kind, as it always will be, but it was no longer the shiny penny, cutting-edge all features sports venue in America.

So, baseball went downtown to the beautiful new Union Station site in 2000. Nothing wrong with that, except for one major neglect. – We left the Dome to stand there as an ongoing maintenance cost problem, as easily as we might have an abandoned a piece of junk.

NFL football returned to Houston in 2002. They built a “plush” new stadium (now called NRG) no more than 300 feet from the abandoned Astrodome.

Over time – since 2000 – our active preservationists have joined hands and minds with progressive county and city leaders to come up with a re-purposing plan that will preserve the Astrodome for what it really is – a world class and internationally famous architectural initiative that Houston must save in perpetuity as a matter of cultural ethos.

So much for plush.

In 1965, the Astrodome’s value was far greater than “plush”. That’s still true in 2018.

And thank you, Darrell Pittman, for sending this clipping to The Pecan Park Eagle.

 

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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5 Responses to “1961: County Voters Approve “Plush” Stadium”

  1. A..J. GARNEY Says:

    Bill,
    I voted against the dome bonds twice. I could not see putting Roy in business at county expense. Here we are 52 years later we are stuck with several millions a year for upkeep. No one can come up with a use for it..
    Your 1956 classmate A.J. Garney

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    Although I preferred the name “Colt .45s” to “Astros,” I assumed the Judge chose “Astros” because the name comes from the Greek word for star (Lone Star State) and its association with NASA and the astronauts.

  3. shinerbock80 Says:

    Why must people continue to spread absolutely false assertions when the facts are so readily available? The annual upkeep for the Astrodome is less than $100,000. Period. It is paid off and has been for some time.

    Tom, the Colt firearms folks seemed fine wit the team using that name until the idea of money being made on it sunk in. Your assumption about the astronauts and NASA is completely correct, but there were also legal wranglings that made the change to Astros a more attractive proposition

  4. Mark W Says:

    Okay, my opinion, for what it’s worth: We put all kinds of people in business at county expense, and at the time Roy Hofheinz already was in business, along with George Kirksey, Craig Cullinan, R. E. “Bob” Smith, and many others. The fact is that the new stadium commitment was a significant part of the reason why Houston was offered a major league franchise. Voting against the bonds was a way of voting against bringing major league baseball to Houston. And voting against re-purposing the dome is a way of dissing one of the most valuable features of our city’s history.

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