Picture of the Reliant Astrodome
It opened in 1965 and was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World". (A team owner is quoted as saying that the "rent for the Astrodome was the ninth".) The stadium was originally called Harris County Domed Stadium in 1965. Reliant Energy purchased naming rights to the building in 2000.
Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1962 with the Houston Colt .45s, who were later renamed the Astros. Houston's unpredictable subtropical weather made outdoor baseball difficult for players and spectators alike. Several baseball franchises had toyed with the idea of building enclosed, air-conditioned stadiums. Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz claimed inspiration for what would eventually become the Astrodome when he was on a tour of Rome, where he learned that the builders of the ancient Colosseum installed giant velariums to shield spectators from the Roman sun.
When the Astrodome opened it utilized a natural grass playing surface. The dome's ceiling was made of clear plastic panes. Players quickly complained that glare coming off of the panes made it impossible for them to track fly balls. Subsequently all of the panes were painted over, which solved the glare problem but caused the grass to die from lack of sunlight. For a time the Astros played on dirt painted green. The permanent solution was to install a new type of artificial grass on the field, which became known as Astroturf.
The Astrodome was also known for a four-story tall scoreboard, comprised of thousands of lightbulbs, that featured animations until its removal in the 1980s. In 1968, the American football team Houston Oilers moved into the Dome. Over the years college basketball games, soccer matches, religious gatherings, and music concerts have been held at the stadium. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of the city's biggest annual events, was held at the Dome from 1965 till 2002.
The Astrodome began to show its age by the 1990s. Oilers owner Bud Adams demanded a new stadium for his team, but the city of Houston refused to fund such a venture. After years of threats, Adams moved the team to Tennessee in 1996. Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built. Houstonians acquiesced this time, and a retractable-roofed Minute Maid Park was erected in downtown Houston in 2000.
The Astrodome was joined by a new neighbor in 2002, the retractable-roofed Reliant Stadium, which was built to house Houston's new NFL franchise, the Texans. When the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved to the new venue in 2003, the Astrodome was left without any major tenants. The historic facility now hosts only the occasional concert and high school football, and its future remains uncertain.