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Fate of Houston's abandoned Astrodome uncertain as stadium turns 60

Construction on the massive structure got underway this week in 1962.

HOUSTON — When Houston civic leaders met on Jan. 3, 1962, for the official groundbreaking to signal the start of construction, it wasn’t called the Astrodome yet – just the "Domed Stadium." Despite its colorful place in the history books for its many decades as a successful sports and entertainment venue, the dome now faces an uncertain future.

It was the vision of former Houston Mayor Roy Hofheinz, who wanted a covered stadium for the new Houston major league baseball team, known back then as the Colt 45s. Architects designed a massive, air-conditioned, 18-story building that covered just over 9 acres.

The Astrodome opened to the public in 1965 and, during its decades of service, played host to the Houston Astros baseball team from its opening until 1999 and the Houston Oilers NFL team from 1968 to 1996. Along the way, there were rodeos, monster truck rallies and a "who’s who" of great entertainers who drew thousands of fans.

It also became a lifeline. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, thousands of evacuees were bused to Houston and housed in the dome.

But the Astrodome eventually became obsolete and, by 2008, it no longer met Houston’s fire code. Voters there turned down a proposal to upgrade it in 2013, and now it sits abandoned.

But recently, a group wanting to save the dome is looking for ideas about how to repurpose it. One proposal would strip the dome down to its steel framework and create a public space for people to walk, bike and even swim, with a tree-lined park surrounding it.

One thing is clear: Now that the Astrodome has national and state protection because of its history, it won’t be torn down. The question now is “what’s next?”

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