Late Houston mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz conceived of the world’s first domed stadium when he was on a tour of Rome and learned the Colosseum had once had giant awnings installed to shield spectators from the Etruscan sun. When Hofheinz’s vision of an indoor sports arena in Houston became a reality in 1965, the Astrodome was instantly hailed as an architectural wonder of the world, with the largest and highest (at 208 feet) unsupported dome. At the time it was a state-of-the-art stadium for professional football and baseball that included cushy, high-priced suites called “sky boxes” where well-heeled spectators sipped highballs and nibbled on fancy hors d'oeuvres as they watched the action from on high. Now called the Reliant Astrodome, this piece of Houston history is no longer deemed safe enough to house crowds. But it had one last heyday, when it was used to house thousands of New Orleans refugees left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Images broadcast across the nation from the Astrodome showed the world what a big heart Houston has.
Harris County commissioners can't figure out what to do with the building. Among the proposals: A hotel or movie studio. No one knows what will happen to it, but it's such an iconic landmark that debate continues to rage about whether it should be torn down.