Out of This World
Syracuse, N.Y. -- When the Houston Astrodome was completed in 1965, it was touted as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Looking back, it seems trite, given the abundance of domed stadiums in existence today. But the construction of the Astrodome marked more than just the completion of first indoor all-purpose stadium. At the time, the Astrodome was also the largest single space ever to be air conditioned, by Carrier, of course.
Summer after summer, for 35 seasons, while hot Texas temperatures steadily climbed through the 90s and into the triple digits outside, overflow crowds of 45,000 inside “the Dome” were able to enjoy baseball games in 74-degree Carrier-cooled comfort.
The Astrodome’s 6,000-ton air conditioning system circulated 2.5 million cubic feet of air per minute thanks to engineering concepts developed and perfected for the sports arena and Astroworld Amusement Park by Carrier.
The Astrodome cost $20.5 million to build and set the standard for stadium design for the next 20 years. Its roof spans 642 ft reaching a height of 208 ft at the apex. It was built to withstand hurricane force winds in excess of 135 m.p.h.
Perhaps the most famous story about the Astrodome is the fate of its original interior. The initial concept was to use natural grass that would receive sunlight through the roof’s 4,596 acrylic skylights. However, the skylights produced a glare that made catching routine fly-balls an adventure for the players. In an attempt to quickly rectify the situation, the skylights were painted a semi-opaque white. As a result, all the grass died. “Astroturf” quickly made its debut in 1966.
Another Astrodome anecdote is its reputation as the ultimate pitcher’s park. The Dome’s original dimensions of 340 feet down the lines, 390 feet to the power alleys and 406 feet to the straightaway center combined with the fact that there was no wind made it a long-ball challenge for hitters.
In 1999, the Houston Astros played their final game in the Astrodome, moving to a new, outdoor stadium with a retractable roof. However, the Dome is still used for other events and will always stand as a symbol of historical advances in both the sports and air conditioning worlds.