In 1965, the Houston Astrodome was billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” But except for emergency duty housing victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building has been empty for more than a decade. Recently the press was admitted to the Astrodome, and what they found was not pretty. David Barron was one of the reporters on the tour. He joined Bill Littlefield from KUHF in Houston and he described what he saw:
"There was a fire at the Dome at one point last year, an electrical problem, and there was a pit on the Astrodome’s floor where some of the AstroTurf was stored during baseball season," Barron said. "When the power shorted out, the pit could not be opened, and so basically water from a water leak that had occurred in the building collected in this eight-foot-deep pit, and they could not siphon all the water out. So basically, the old football AstroTurf sort of marinated in this pit for probably the better part of a year."
If that sounds rather unseemly, wait until you hear about the first time Barron ever covered a football game at the dome:
"The sports information director for the University of Houston was in front of me," he said, "and I saw him stumble, and I saw his shoe fly off to the side. I talked to him later and I said, 'Frank, are you okay? Did you stumble getting off the elevator?' And he said, 'No, I almost stepped on a rat.' So what I thought was his shoe was really a rat that was sufficiently large enough that it looked as big as a foot."
[sidebar title="Astrodome Slideshow" width="250" align="right"] To see what the Astrodome looks like now, check out the Houston Chronicle's photo gallery from April 3, 2012. [/sidebar]
Despite the shortcomings to the Dome, Barron said that having an indoor stadium in Houston was a necessity, not just a way to draw fans.
"The mosquitoes were legendary at old Colt Stadium," he said. "I still had complaints from nephews who come into town during the early part of the year when the Minute Maid Park roof is open who swear that the mosquitoes somehow fly over the open roof of Minute Maid Park and somehow find their way into the broadcast booth. Our mosquitoes are somewhat legendary."
While the Dome has been closed for the better part of the last decade, there have been a few events held there. Barron described one that was particularly unusual.
"I think the final official event in the dome was a bar mitzvah. It must have been something. I presume they just rented out the floor area, that they didn’t have anything in the suites or anything in the stands."
This segment aired on April 21, 2012.