9 things you didn’t know about the once-majestic Astrodome

The Astrodome opened in 1965 as Harris County Domed Stadium, the brainchild of former Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz. It became the first-ever domed stadium and was known to many as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It hosted the Astros from 1965 to 1997 and the Oilers from 1968 to 1997.

Here are 9 facts you might not have known about the Astrodome:

1. It once had grass

(PHOTO: AP Photo)

When the dome opened, it featured a special type of grass bred to be grown indoor and a translucent roof to provide natural grass. But after players complained about the glare off the roof, some sections were painted white and the grass died. Before the stadium fully installed the AstroTurf it became known for, the Astros played parts of two seasons on dirt that was painted green.

2. It had giant rats


Not that kind, though. A 1999 San Francisco Chronicle feature introduced Jeff, the man who tended the feral cats that lived in the Astrodome to hunt the giant rats that also lived in the Astrodome. Hundreds of feral cats, countless rats. Sounds like a pretty great place to live. Oh, speaking of…

3. It had an apartment

(PHOTO: Astrodome USA)

Stop what you’re doing and go read this 1988 Sports Illustrated article about the garish apartment Hofheinz had built for himself inside the stadium, not to mention the Presidential Suite he hoped would lure Lyndon Johnson. Hofheinz would sometimes tend bar at the hidden in-stadium Tipsy Tavern, where an electromagnetic device at the end of the bar prevented beers from sliding off.

4. Groundskeepers used to wear space suits

(PHOTO: Sam C. Pierson/Houston Chronicle/AP Photo)

After the stadium introduced turf, groundskeepers stayed busy vacuuming the carpet clean between innings and raking the remaining infield dirt. They wore space suits, presumably because space suits are awesome.

5. Elvis Presley played there

(PHOTO: AP Photo)

Elvis played the Astrodome six times in 1970 and again in 1974. The Jacksons also played there when their 1984 tour came through Houston, so the Astrodome faithful could boast audiences with both the King and the King of Pop. Also: The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Metallica and Selena, among plenty others.

6. A U2 video was shot there

U2-stuck in a moment (Us Version) from juan velandia on Vimeo.

WARNING: The above video may not be suitable for anyone with a sense of auditory decency. But the video for the cloying and incessant U2 single Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of in the Astrodome in 2001. It features John Madden and Bono doing the wave, so there are at least some Easter eggs in there for all those that can suffer the music.

7. It hosted “The Battle of the Sexes”

(PHOTO: AP Photo)

The famed tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King happened at the Astrodome in 1973. The stadium also hosted a 1968 NCAA hoops game deemed “Game of the Century,” a Wrestlemania, an Evel Knieval stunt and a Muhammad Ali fight, among countless other sporting contests.

8. It once had a rainout

(PHOTO: Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

On June 15, 1976, a game between the Astros and Pirates was rained out despite the dome aimed at preventing exactly that. The Astrodome’s floor was 45 feet below ground level, and entrances to the park — not to mention the nearby streets — flooded after a summer storm.

9. It almost became a luxury hotel

(PHOTO: Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

One of several failed efforts to renovate the Astrodome and keep it standing called for it to be converted to a luxury hotel. And hey, what says luxury like giant rats with hundreds of feral cats chasing them around? The electromagnetic bar alone probably would have been worth the price of a stay, but it was removed during a stadium upgrade in 1988.

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