By Chris Daigle
Being as June 1 is the anniversary of the opening of Astroworld in 1968, I can’t help but reflect on how my 10-year-old self made hundreds of trips across a bridge over Loop 610 to this wonderful world of fun. Just as the Astrodome is a marvelous engineering feat, and Astroworld was built just a stones throw from it with its own engineering miracles, who even knew even the bridge from the parking lot to the park had a place in history itself?
In 1966, as Roy Hofheinz was ramping up plans for Houston’s ultimate theme park, he realized parking wouldn’t be possible on the park grounds. Fighting traffic to get to the front gates would be a dangerous proposition from a busy freeway. Hofheinz enlisted the help of an important friend, President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Hofheinz worked with Johnson to gain federal approval for the bridge, since the only thing that can cross a freeway had to be a city street, and this wasn’t. The bridge turned out to be the first privately owned, publicly accessible bridge to cross a federal highway. Having the first of everything was really big to Roy Hofheinz.
The two were old friends from the Texas political scene, dating back to July 1928, when Hofheinz was a 16-year-old high school graduate (he wasn’t going to wait until 18), working as a temporary page for the New York delegation during Houston’s Democratic National Convention, in what would become the Sam Houston Coliseum. It was there he met 20-year-old Lyndon B. Johnson.
When the Astrodome opened in April 1965, President Johnson was a special guest high above right field as the Houston Astros beat the New York Mets in the world’s first indoor baseball game. Hofheinz chose April 9 as the opening day because April 10 was his birthday. There was talk that the Astros won the opening night game on a wink and a nod – it was a big event, after all.
The bridge is still being used for getting Rodeo goods to the now empty field that was once Astroworld. It looks like it did in 1968, with lamp posts and railings. It is the only remnant left of “The Wonderful World of Fun.” The supports were made wider to accommodate a future monorail. Though a prototype existed, it never came to be.