HOUSTON, Texas (KTRE) - On April 9, 1965 the Houston Astros would change professional baseball forever when they opened up their season against the New York Yankees inside the Astrodome.
Former Houston Mayor “Judge” Roy Hofheinz first presented Major League baseball with the idea of a covered stadium in 1960. Houston didn’t even have a team at the time. They would soon be awarded an expansion franchise that became the Houston Colt 45′s. In 1962, construction began on the covered baseball stadium.
Over the next three years construction crews finished a 9.5 acre stadium that cost $35 million. The finished product would become the Astrodome. Adjusted for inflation the project would have cost over $287 million today.
The Astrodome amazed fans. Never had there been a stadium where a game on a grass baseball field could happen indoors.
The Astros opened the stadium with a set of exhibition games against the New York Yankees. The Astros won the first game in 12 innings with President, and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson in attendance.
Lufkin native Bud Maddux was just 16 years old when the Astrodome opened. He recalled the excitement of walking into the Sunday exhibition against the Yankees.
“I couldn’t wait to go and see it,” Maddux said. “I had been down there some for the Colt 45′s stadium outside. It was so hot and the mosquitoes were so bad they had to do something. It was unreal. They called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. When you walked in you had no idea what you were walking into.”
Maddux recalls seeing Micky Mantle play in that game for the Yankees. It was not the last big name he saw.
“I watched Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker,” Maddus said. " We had all the big teams come in. I saw Sandy Koffax with the Dodgers. When the Braves came in I saw Hank Aaron. The Pirates with Willie McCovey, The Giants with Willie Mays. I watched all those guys. We would just go to watch. It was not uncommon for me to get off of work in Lufkin at 5 and leave to Houston for a 7:30 game. You could walk up and get a ticket in the outfield deck for $1 to $3."
The use of the dome would go beyond baseball. It would become the home of the Houston Oilers. The University of Houston football team would call it home for several years. It would host the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as well as other sporting events including the famous tennis match dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes”, the showdown between the University of Houston basketball team and UCLA and even an Elvis Concert. Plenty of East Texas football teams played games in the dome for playoffs including the Lufkin Panthers 38-24 win in the 2001 state title game.
NRG stadium was built next door to the Astrodome for the Houston Texans expansion franchise. The Astrdome hosted the last baseball game in 1999. The Astros opened up the 2000 season at Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.
There have been more and more domes and retractable roof stadiums come to professional sports but the Astrodome was the first and will go down as on of the most loved.