The Astrodome Changes Sports Forever: This Day in Sports History

Ryan Phillips
Houston Astrodome
Houston Astrodome / Photoshot/Getty Images
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On April 9, 1965 something happened to change the course of sports history. A sold-out crowd of 47,879 filed in to a new stadium in Houston to watch a unique event, the first indoor baseball game in history. The Astrodome was officially open.

On that first day, fans packed the world's first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium to watch the Houston Astros play the New York Yankees in an exhibition game. The opening game was attended by President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird, as well as Texas governor John Connally. Yankees star Mickey Mantle had both the first hit and first home run in the park's history, but the Astros won the game 2-1 in the 12th inning.

Dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome initially featured a grass field and cost just $35 million to build. The Astros and Houston Oilers called the new indoor arena home for decades. After the success of the construction, domed and multi-use stadiums became common across the nation. After it was clear natural grass couldn't get enough sunlight inside the dome, artificial grass took its place. Fittingly, it was called Astroturf.

Over the years the Astrodome was home to numerous big events. The 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King was held under the dome. College basketball's "Game of the Century" between the Houston Cougars and UCLA Bruins in 1968 was held at the Astrodome and became the first regular season college basketball game broadcast nationally on prime time television. The Cougars beat John Wooden's squad 71-69.

Dozens of high-profile concerts packed the venue, as did Muhammad Ali when he battled Cleveland Williams in 1966. Ali won via third-round knockout. In 2001, the WWE held Wrestlemania X-Seven in Houston and set the all-time attendance record at the Astrodome at 67,925.

The Astrodome's success paved the way for domed stadiums to become a huge part of the sports landscape. There are 10 domed stadiums in the NFL that host 11 teams. Five of those domes are fixed roof facilities and five have retractable roofs. There are eight domes in Major League Baseball, with seven retractable roofs and one fixed roof facility.

The Astrodome changed the game for American sports. It allowed fans to stay out of extreme weather conditions while still being able to attend live sporting events. It was a bold, beautiful vision, executed to near perfection.

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