By Chris Daigle
Hereto forth, I humbly place my bid in for the Astrodome. I offer only memories as capital, but I have enough to fill the place to the Mezzanine and the Dome Dog counter.
The Astrodome has had its critics, even before it was built in the 1960’s. Nobody thought you should, or could, play sports indoors. But when it was finished, the Astrodome became a destination, and has been called, “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” alongside the Statue Of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Pyramids Of Egypt.
Its uniqueness has always been more than architectural; it was a cultural shift. The Dome’s odd combination of daring design, and the fact that someone actually succeeded in its construction, made it the perfect symbol of all that is best about Houston.
I had a Wonder in my own city! Those who said it couldn’t be done suddenly became silent inside this air conditioned palace, sans mosquitos, and it was suddenly fit for boxing, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and A.J. Foyt. Performing without suffering got to be pretty big news!
My personal bid for the Dome is written on those $3.50 tickets I bought at Foley’s to see things like motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel risk his life jumping over 14 cars and the “Battle Of The Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. We were extras in the filming of Brewster McCloud for a week, and got to be there on the 50 yard line to see Earl Campbell play the best “Luv Ya Blue” Oilers game, making Monday Night Football history in 1978.
We didn’t just watch the events; we were all part of history being made. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve kept more programs. My 11 year-old self, and hundreds of thousands just like me, could look up every weekend and silently say, “If they can do this, I can achieve my dreams, too.” And we did – some with more success than others. The Astrodome, to quote the Miranda Lambert song, was, “The House That Built Me.”
The Roman Coliseum didn’t have the fumes of a demolition derby or provide a chance to shake hands with the greatest names in sports and music to add to our memories. The Dome was our Coliseum, our Statue Of Liberty, our Parthenon. The rusty beams are still coated with the sounds of Bum Phillips declaring, “And next year we will kick the damn door in!”
There was never a Super Bowl at the Astrodome, but we watched our teams come close to championships here so many times. Roy Hofheinz would be proud to see the Astros finally cross the finish line in the World Series this year, 55 years after he created them in 1962.
I am not bidding to make the Astrodome a hotel, or a sound stage, or a garden park, or an open air framework. But if my, “Bid of Memories,” succeeds, the Dome will remain a grand symbol of Houston’s “Can-Do” spirit. We owe it to a new generation to show them how it was done!
This place wasn’t named after a corporation; it was named for an idea that put a “cowboy city” on the map, and for the people with guts enough to make it happen. My down payment on the Dome will be the kids who are not even born yet, but who will eventually look up at our Wonder and say silently, “They did this…I can achieve my dreams, too!”
Chris Daigle is a contributing editor to The Grapevine Source. He is a Houston historian, specializing in Astrodome history. To contact Chris, email firstname.lastname@example.org.