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Jun. 24, 2013

Houston Astrodome Named One of the Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S.

By Georgiana Mihaila, Associate Editor

Houston AstrodomeOnce referred to as “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Houston Astrodome now finds itself in desperate need of a viable reuse plan in order to avoid demolition.

The stadium, seen as a marvel of modern engineering when it opened in 1965, was designed to embody Houston’s innovative, entrepreneurial and space-age development as a major U.S. city. Home to Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros and the National Football League’s Houston Oilers for several decades, the Astrodome also hosted memorable events like the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 and the Republican National Convention in 1992.

The 18-story Astrodome was also the world’s first large, multipurpose enclosed stadium built with a self-supported domed roof. Now, it stands vacant and has hardly been used since the Astros traded it for a newer ballpark in 1999.

It was deemed unsafe for occupancy in 2008, and investors and local officials have been looking at ways of renovating and reusing the space, but all viable solutions have lacked the necessary funding; demolition could be the cheapest option, but local (and even national) nostalgia stands in the way.

Furthermore, the stadium, also known as the “Reliant Astrodome,” has been included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2013 list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places,” an annual count of endangered sites that have made a unique contribution to American history during the course of their existence. This year’s list also includes the Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland, Maine; Chinatown House in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; the Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, Mass.; the Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana; and the Worldport Terminal at New York’s JFK airport.