Posts Tagged ‘Astrodome Future’

We Once Had a Home Where the Buffalo Roamed

June 9, 2013
"You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!"

“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!”

It was good to see Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle check in today on the side of doing something with the Astrodome other than tearing it down for more McNair/Rodeo parking space. His commentary is on the front page of the Sports Section in this morning’s Sunday, June 9, 2013 Houston Chronicle.

Perhaps, we may draw some lessons from the last great demolition of a venerable baseball park in Houston, and I don’t mean Colt Stadium, that fry-your-brains-in-the-sun skillet of a temporary venue that served as home to the new Houston big league club for three seasons from 1962 to 1964. The place wasn’t here long enough to have earned “venerable” as an attributed state of its emotional attraction to fans, nor was it ever intended as anything other than a game site drooling pad for fans to watch major league baseball (of sorts) as they also watched the birth of the Astrodome over a 36-month gestation period.

No. I’m talking about the loss of Buff Stadium, home of the Houston Buffs from 1928 through 1961. Not counting the three Texas League World War II seasons in which no Buff games were played (1943-45), Buff/Busch Stadium served as home of Buffs league play for 31 active seasons.

31 seasons was long enough for the patina of all that is venerable to have settled deeply into place cam over time to watch the fates of Buffs baseball rise and fall and rise again, over time.

When “Buff” Stadium went down to the wrecking ball in 1962, Houston was still neck-deep in the psyche of tear-it-down-and-build-a-parking-lot in almost every instance of anything “old”, but it escaped total ignominy because the baseball friendly Finger family bought the stadium and grounds for a new furniture store on the Gulf Freeway at Cullen that would include a new sports museum within the new facility. It was also built in an area that included an accurately retained spot where home plate at the ballpark actually still resided.

It was great. We almost forgot, at first, that we had lost the ballpark. Then the newness of this fairly good idea began to wear down. Long before curator Tom Kennedy came on board to breed new, dynamic life into the artifact displays at the Finger’s Museum, people began to tire of seeing the same old things each time they visited.

If you had seen it a few times in the 1960’s, you’d only have seen it grow slowly as the place began to add football and basketball items as it tried to become the “Houston Sports Museum.” There was nothing churning at the museum that would inspire a taste for return visits and this was happening at the same time that the furniture-shopping baseball public was beginning to shop differently and elsewhere.

Baseball historian, writer, and curator Tom Kennedy arrived in time to restore the museum beautifully, and dynamically, with the help of multi-media basic disks and recordings to its baseball roots, but the timing was unfortunate. The furniture store site was not working and would have to close, taking the museum with it.

The Finger family, aided by Mr. Kennedy, are now in the process of looking at ways to re-open the museum in some conjunctive partnership with the Sugarland Skeeters independent baseball organization.

My stadium point is much simpler. When Buff Stadium went down, it was lucky to have had anything done in its memory. The Finger family deserves the credit here, even if their desire to save the heart of Buff Stadium history was eventually consumed by other business realities. It went down because back in 1962, Buff Stadium was about the past and only the Astrodome was about the future. Today Buff Stadium might have survived to have served some other end, perhaps, as an athletic facility site for the neighboring UH program.

And today the developers do a little more public relations dancing in Houston before they call in the old wrecking ball. They have to. The voices of savvy, politically connected preservationists are alive and growing into a force of some reckoning power.

If you are among those who want to see the Astrodome preserved, pay attention to what’s going on in the near days to come – and especially to how Commissioners Court words any referendum they may propose to the voters.

The Astrodome: A Future as Art

April 19, 2012

Dame Astrodome: Maybe we let her go out the way she came in back in 1965 - all sculpted girders as a living eco-green reminder of her place in history and with no more costly gridlock on how we save her for some other newfound commercial venture.

Less than a month ago, Early Houston Baseball Research artist Patrick Lopez suggested that we should consider “saving” the Astrodome in the most energy-efficient way available to us. Lopez suggested we strip the iconic symbol of all new sports venue domed stadium construction in the world down to only the steel structure that still defines her structure and thus allow the old girl to breathe the free air as a girded reminder to all of her place in the world history of architecture. The interior could be developed as an open air Astrodome Memorial Park, perhaps, even preserving in some kind of flexible way a plan for preserving home plate and the diamond dimensions for some further use of the place for fun baseball games – and maybe even the home field of our vintage baseball league team, the Houston Babies.

What a combo that would make! The resurrected 1888 Houston Babies, the city’s first professional baseball club, playing their games within the architectural heart of this town’s and the world’s first domed multi-purpose sports stadium!

The place could be dotted with convenience features like clean, operative rest rooms, fast food service, souvenir and historical tour shows – maybe even a small museum with a theater that could show the history of the Dome and other historical Houston features – everything from our history in sports to our city’s role in medicine, the performing and visual arts, the ship channel, the Texas Medical Center, the petrochemical industry, higher education, NASA, and the roles of our various sub-cultures in Houston’s growth as a significant international city.

The place could be landscaped for shade and greenery – and maybe the Houston Zoo will get involved in locating a rotating display there of all the zoo animals that are in need of protection from extinction in the wilds.

It could be anything we choose to make it. My words are simply my sketch. We are only limited by the volume of our passion, the flight-worthy character of our imaginations, and the steel of our political resolve to see that the Astrodome comes to a rightful new purpose before it slips irrevocably into a state of irredeemable costly repair.

This will be a low maintenance working, living, breathing memorial that serves as an ongoing family fun spot, teaching and recreational venue, and promotional spotlight on whatever side of Houston we want to promote to visitors. And there will be no “Big Bertha” AC bill to pay every month. The Astrodome itself will have become the sculpture that defines what is special about this very special spot of Houston ground. Other lower maintenance costs can most probably be covered by good planning for an array of year-round events that are staged on site to help cover most, if not all, of the costs.

If we could just tear our way through the overwhelming squelch of apathy and get some of that old-fashioned Houston hustle and muscle behind this kind of plan, we could get her done – and sleep a lot better in the knowledge that we, as Houstonians, didn’t just sit idly by until the old girl died from the structural equivalent of human cancer.

What do you say, folks? Can you see what Patrick Lopez and I are talking about? And are you willing to get behind the promotion of such a plan to our local government leaders?

It’s going to take a combination of creativity, leadership, expertise, and a love for Houston and the Astrodome  to get this kind of ball rolling – and all I can think to do for starters is to make this plea and to make sure I also send a link to this column to County Judge Emmett and Mayor Parker. If anyone cares to step forward and organize a formal appeal plan, I, for one, will be glad to help you in any way that I am able. I’m just not young enough, politically big enough, or fool enough, to take on this beast by myself. We need a courageous individual or group of  similar-minded Houstonians to take on the job of putting together a plan for the Astrodome Arboretum – or whatever we may choose to call it.

Step up now and speak your mind by leaving a comment on this column. As I see it, the time is pretty close to now or never.

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