The 8th Wonder of the World
When the Harris County Domed Stadium was completed in 1965, people around the country called it the "8th Wonder of the World". There was nothing like it in those days. For Houstonians, the real wonder of the highly innovative "Astrodome" was that it was air-conditioned.
In January, 1968, basketball went prime time as University of Houston and UCLA played the first nationally televised basketball game. Houston, lead by Elvin Hayes, defeated Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the Bruins. The venue: the Astrodome.
With its glass-paneled roof and climate control, the dome was to have a year-round natural grass playing surface for football and baseball. But direct sun and glare made it difficult for players to see high fly balls.
Being in the space city, with thriving petroleum and plastics industries, artificial turf was developed and the windowed dome was made opaque. Astroturf, as the invention was called, was soon in use in covered stadiums around the country. The all-weather carpeting even covered many outdoor fields.
At the end of its short life, Astroturf is being retired to the back patios and poolhouses of America. For the new millennium the city of Houston will get a pair of new retractable roof stadiums to replace the Astrodome, and they will feature natural grass playing fields.
Only yesterday, the Astrodome was ahead of its time, but today times change quickly.
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