What I Saw When I Snuck Inside the Astrodome

When was the last time anyone saw the inside of Houston’s hulking, shuttered Astrodome? What’s it like in there, more than a decade since it hosted its final major-league sports event, and more than 5 years since its last bar mitzvah? A curious reader sends Swamplot the latest recon: “I was roaming around taking pictures at the Rodeo on Sunday,” writes the stadium snoop, “when I noticed the ramp down to the floor of the Astrodome was open and there was no one there. I walked down the ramp, on to the field and started taking pictures.


“There was absolutely no one that I could see or hear. The crumpled Astroturf was littered with trash.”

“The Oiler and Astro signs were still in place.”

“There were no lights on but the whole place was illuminated by the skylites.”

“I walked to home plate area and thought about all the Astro and Oiler games I had seen there. . . .”

“I thought about Elvis, Ali, Evel and Micky and also thought about Rodeo, Rolling Stones, Supercross and Luv Ya Blue. I left soon because I didn’t want to get caught. . . .”

Photos: Swamplot inbox

67 Comment

  • Really cool… Wonder how much those signs are worth?

    Glad you didn’t get caught.

  • So cool! And yet, so sad.

  • Holy wow.

  • Sad, but not surprising.

  • Here’s my suggestion for what to do with the astrodome: Indoor trap, skeet, 5 stand, and sporting clays. Shooters stand on what was formally the playing field and the shotfall area is where the seats were.

  • I miss that place..

  • If I only had $200,000 for every time I had to go down that ramp to cover the rodeo, I might be able to pay for health insurance and gas in my old age.

  • Lest we forget, Bud Adams and his filthy traitor, loser excuse for a football team had been gone for 5 years and the Astros wore navy and gold during the Dome’s last few fully functional years.

    Cool as those Astros and Oilers signs are, they’re actually props from the 2004 movie version of “Friday Night Lights.”

  • The Astrodome was improperly maintained all the way back to the final days of the Oilers. You can not hope to rejuvenate a building that under Drayton’s watch was starved of even the most basic of proper repairs. I do understand some people’s sentimentality, but the blame on the stadium’s condition goes back to the 1990′s. There was nothing anyone could do to revive it without sinking a boatload of money into it. And with the economy the way it is good luck finding a sucker willing to invest in it. The problem is no elected official wants to be the one that signed it’s death warrant. Which, will also come with backlash. This is what Houston has let happen. Standstill. Don’t expect it to change lol.

  • Man. They used to be so hyper-protective of that turf! I’m surprised it was left “out” and not rolled up in the troughs. It’s probably too late now (anyone still care?) – but they should have cut it into little squares & sold it. Like the Rockets did with the Compaq Center court. Maybe the money could have gone to charity (it sure wouldn’t make a dent in the debt on the building!).

  • The structure needs to be stripped down to the iron work, it will be the Eiffel tower of Houston. Plant grass and make amazing gardens underneath it all. What a great change it would be from the acres of concrete that surronds Reliant Park. Look at what discovery green has done for the GRB, just think what we could do with all that park space next to the Reliant Convetion Center.

  • It was open for visitors/wandering during the 2005 rodeo. That was my first rodeo and first few months in Houston… I didn’t realize at the time what a rich history it had!

  • I think in the last photo in the distance I can see a kid lying on the ground wearing some sort of mechanical birdman contraption. It looks like he fell to the ground after trying to fly around inside the dome. Or it could just be a pile of trash. Hard to tell.

  • Wow, I used to work there down under in one of the basement floors. I was at the rodeo too and had I known there was a ramp/gate open I would’ve sneaked in there myself. Who remembers the 1992 Republican convention?! I worked it and had to get FBI clearance in doing so. I remember there were about 3 checkpoints we had to go through-it was a big deal or so it seemed. I’m hoping it’s not too late to do something with this place as it’s an institution but then again we live in Houston!

  • Did you see any giant rats in there?

  • Put it out of its misery. Can’t you see it’s suffering?

  • TC’s comments couldn’t be further from the truth. The demise of the Dome had nothing to do with deferred maintenance. It had everything to do with:

    1. Poor seating configuration. The fact that it was built for both baseball and football; and as a result was not really good for either one. The football configuration held 65,000 seats and 45,000 of them were behind the goal lines. Baseball has similar issues when most of the seats are in a circle formation. Both teams wanted better.

    2. The way the NFL Revenue Sharing Agreement defines “shared revenue”. This document in and of itself rendered the Dome economically obsolete for NFL football. People think luxury suites and club levels are all the rage because they command premium pricing, but the REAL value is that ALL that money stays in the owners pocket. “Regular” ticket revenue is shared between the two teams that play the games.

    3. Multiple Tenants with differing economic needs.

  • OldSchool proving he deserves his name with the Brewster McCloud reference…

  • Holy moley. Thanks for this.

  • The answer to the question and reason for the way it looks are one in the same: Hurricane Katrina 2005. The turf was on the floor as can easily be seen in any pictures and of course the trash is from people living in there during that time. The dome had been officially closed by then and was reopened only for the evacuation. That was the last time anyone was in there.

    As for what to do with it: How about filling the bottom with water, stocking it with fish and charging people for year round fishing? They could also do water stunt shows. Sounds like a million dollar idea to me. . .

  • Very sad.

  • I like Rob’s idea. Otherwise, do what most people do with a broken down old barn. Stow hay bales in it.

  • Rob, the structure really is quite beautiful and I think it would be a great idea to expose it and create a park beneath. (Oh, with real grass, not Astroturf!)

  • It HAS been used since 2005 (Katrina). It has been used as “the Hideout” during the rodeo.

  • Someone asked how much those signs are worth? Uh, hello, it’s the Astros and Oilers, they’re worth “nothing”!!!

  • TEAR the relic DOWN. It’s a money pit(i.e. our tax dollars.But our wussy elected officials are only thinking of their political futures and do not want to be RESPONSIBLE for actually making a decision to call the wrecking crew.That leftover needs to go!!!

  • Agree with the idea to convert it into something like a larger version of Moody Gardens. Its days as a venue are certainly over.

  • Looking down that tunnel brings back really good memories and feeling of awe I used to have walking the concourse hearing the Astros PA announcer with his low rumbling voice.

    Those are sweet pictures.

  • The dome has certainly been used since 2005/Katrina. A company I contracted with leased it for their 2006 company Christmas party. It was not trashed like these pictures depict. It was more along the lines of eerie. Empty, but with Astros, banners still hanging in place, and other items to remind us, that had been there many times for many functions, of great times gone by.

  • Creepy! The mom in me feared for your safety in this unstable structure and I’m glad nothing fell on you or gave way underfoot. That cracked and sagging walkway to an entrance is scary. Rob’s idea is fantastic, is that idea floated out there? Funny how easy it is for city leaders to raise funds and support for several new stadiums, but a park will likely be an uphill battle. I used to work in the same building as Ben Love back in the 1990s and whoever was in the elevator with him got an earful about supporting efforts to build a new ball park, he was very passionate about it.

  • I seem to recall that the Dome is collateral for millions, maybe hundreds of millions in Harris County bonds which would be payable if the Dome were to be demolished. So it sits. The interest gets paid and somewhere in a future beyond current politicians careers, there is a big liability which must be paid. If Harris Couty were to default, the bond rating would suffer and increased borrowing costs would be paid by higher property taxes.

  • I wonder how many people have contracted diseases from entering this place.

  • Turn it into Worlds larget indoor amusement park. Replace Astroworld. With AC!

  • a) sell it and the property as is and get it on the tax rolls
    b) knock it down and sell the property, get it back on the tax rolls
    I’d raffle chances to push the plunger for $25 a pop

  • The Astrodome… Astroworld… such great memories.
    That’s the Houston I grew up in and remember. I hardly recognize this town anymore.

  • Rob I had a similar idea – I would like to see them gut most of the structure, open it leaving four raised columns to support four “panels” of the roof to span the entire structure. This would leave some memory and tribute to the former structure. They could then bring in materials,large trees, park amenities, play spaces, water / cool spaces etc.. inside the area of the original structure. A pedestrian pathway from Herman Park and / or the HP rail station – traveling through Braeswood Rd. / Braes bayou could be built that would extend to Reliant Park to the Astrodome Park with the path ending near the Fannin light rail station – 4-5 miles total. Pedestrian walk ways to be lighted and patroled with operating hours. The park would serve the interests of the Rodeo, Convention participants and the Texans. Obviously fund raising and some philanthropic effort would be necessary ( a gift from the blah blah foundation to the City of Houston ). Rodeo / Reliant could also kick in, in exchange for some concessions from the county.

    I’d love for this to become reality, but no not the first thing about making it so. I wouldn’t even know who to call.

  • I am not so sure that there would have been any trouble if he was “caught”. I did not see any “Keep Out” signs and there door was clearly open. All that would have happened is that he would be asked to leave. Trouble would start if he did not comply.

  • I remember as a child it seemed so huge (I saw Elvis at the Rodeo!), it was like those orange seats at the top were miles from the floor. Not so much now.

    Something like Rob’s wonderful idea is really the only way to go now. It could be magnificent. The steel structure surrounded by park, and useful too. Bring in the big oak trees from all over town that would otherwise be cut down. It could really, truly be something wonderul.


  • Love these pix. I love the garden idea as well.

  • I posted the garden idea probably 5 years ago; I guess it occurred to a lot of us.

    Still think a Space Shuttle would put the “wow” back in the dome. Oh well.

  • The Astrodome is too close to Reliant to do anything to it without creating a major parking/traffic conflict with Reliant. For one month during the year, whatever the Astrodome would become (garden, rifle range, human flight development center) would be inaccessible due to the Rodeo. Who would want to invest in a big project that is already limited to 11 months of the year? And then there are the Texans games, soccer games, rock concerts, and major conventions (OTC). Any re-purposing of the Astrodome would have to be compatible with the current use of the Reliant complex (Bars? Restaurants? Hotel space?) but also be of enough interest to sustain itself when the Reliant complex is not active with other events, and still not be so awesome of a venue that it detracted from people spending lots of money in the stadium or at the other venues. Even with a bunch of sweetheart tax deals and all the aquariums, tigers and carnival rides Tilman Fertita can stuff in there, the Astrodome is just unusable because of where it is, not what it is.

  • I don’t think anyone has any comprehension of how much money it would cost to do ANYTHING with the dome. Rebranding it as something completely different would cost upwards of half a billion dollars (at least that’s what the cost estimates were of the hotel boondongle). To keep it as an arena (which we don’t need) would still cost a fortune. It needs all new seating, bathrooms and one helluva power washing, not to mention all the fire code violations. Arena or hotel, buying a piece of land out in Pearland and building a whole new domed whatever it may be would be cheaper. No bank is going to put forth that much money in this economy. It’s time to put up or shut up on the dome. Every six months or so the county forks over $50K for some study and then it’s another two years before they figure out that plan won’t work and then another $50K study and the cycle repeats. At some point it just has to stop.

  • I was at the rodeo that same day and also snapped some photos of the outside. Wish I knew that door was open and I would have went inside too!

  • The county can spend another $50K to do another study on what to do with that damn dome. or they can make $50K by selling front row seats to its demolition. I bet they could auction of the right to push the button for another $50K. That is the only money to be made off of the dome at this point.

  • I love the idea of a raffle to be the one who gets to push the plunger on the demo.

  • We should convert this to an indoor snow/ski arena like they have in Dubai.

  • I say, “Play BALL!” Just play it on a roulette wheel. Bars, restaurants, & hotels by themselves won’t make the Dome economically feasible but add gambling and it’s a whole other story. Just as many people are betting on gambling being legalized for Galveston, it may be the Dome’s only hope as well. Plus, that old scoreboard (RIP) would rival the lights of Vegas any day!

    Cities like Kansas City have proven gambling to be a great source of tax revenues without being a magnet for all things evil. In fact, it may be the magnet that finally attracts someone to redevelop the polluted piece of land formerly known as Astroworld.

    Oh, and good news on the parking problems: I just heard someone has invented a new fangled idea called a parking garage! Add a monorail from a parking garage at Astroworld that circles the Dome and we’ve finally completed the original design (or at least the design of the original logo)

  • SO WHAT? The place looks find. A little scattered loose trash on the ground and you go all nuts about this? The structure is fine. The budget is 4 million bux per year to keep it up, you dont have to dust the place.

  • They coulda used it for the soccer stadium. How freaking sad it’s falling apart now. Had no idea it was that bad. Just tear it down.

  • My father gave his life building the place. I hope to see it stay and thrive.

  • Interesting that the building is trashed, but it has a ‘NEW” Reliant Astrodome sign.

  • I remember when it first opened and how cool the score board was. I was certainly proud of it. It’s really a shame that it is allowed to just sit empty like that. But ya’ll know how local governments are!

  • Recycle the steel, concrete, and electrical wiring. I’m sure the quality of the building materials is high quality-1965 after all. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Houstonians who would pay big money to take a seat or two home. The county could make an easy profit. Thats what happened to old Yankee Stadium. Wake up county commissioners!!

  • “jookyhc” and anyone else blaming Bud Adams is completely clueless. Bud leased the stadium himself. He had no control over anything there. The Oilers and the NFL had nothing to do with (and no control over) the lack of tailgating, and the poor conditions, etc. Blame the owners of the stadium, not Bud. And it wouldn’t have matter WHO the owner was, the NFL was not going to continue to let one of it’s franchises play in such as dump with such a financial disadvantage.

    It’s funny how nobody wanted to build Bud a stadium in 1995, but a scant 5 years later, you approve funding for a brand new stadium for a new owner. An owner whose team has an awesome record (65-95 I think) after a decade in what should have been the Oilers stadium.

  • I have so many memories there.. As a kid with mom n dad, Oilers, Astros, Monster Trucks, Rodeo and Concerts. My dad was a floor manager too. I was hired there but declined it to work as a roadie in which I worked as tech on the Paul McCartney and Rolling Stones shows there. Hek do you recall Pink Floyd’s reubiob tour in 1984? My first concert was in the dome and it was Floyd. Then there was Randy Quaid’s The Biggest Party In History, an all day multi act/band bash ending with the Who? Evil Kenievel! ESA Sportslab, Hurrican Katrina survivors… I recall sleeping on one of the rafters during McCartney .. lol That was a damn good sleep. It was load in when I caught my NL baseball. A bang was popped one into center and I was on the floor behind the center line as it dropped to me.. :) BTW Did anyone ever take the tour? The war bunker in there and the tunnel ..very interesting.

  • IM 11 and i would die to have a tour to go through there it seems so interesting imagine it in 20 years but that guy is lucky to go through there and see it 1 more time and sneek in there and take photos do u think they left the doors open on pourpose so people would see it in 2012 plus why would they leave it open like that if nowone was in there

  • People, we need to erect a world class hotel and possible green space in that area or we will never get another superbowl at Reliant. By building a hotel, we can house the majority of the NFL big wigs; media; whoever, and it would greatly benefit them because they would be on site. Place all of the weekly activities in a couple of the parking lots; use the training bubble for parties, and just go all out! Dallas will get two more superbowls before Houston would even be considered a finalist! Oh, how glad I am that the last superbowl in Dallas was a debacle! GO TEXANS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Actually my comments about the condition of the building had everything to do with the improper care and maintenance under Drayton’s watch are 100% accurate. I was there for it. Your comments on the economic conditions are a separate argument Bernard. The physical state of the building is on Drayton’s hands. It happened on his watch. He was in charge of the stewardship of the building at the time.

    As for the comments about making it a ‘green space’ and a ‘hotel’ those options were explored endlessly and no one has stepped up with the funds to do so. It’s a great idea. But apparently there are no entities willing to pony up the boatload of cash to do so unfortunately.

    As for the condition of the turf it most certainly was NOT out during the Hurricane Katrina relief process. the turf is on a large roller underneath the East end and stores underground. The side pieces are on large rolls that are stored in the hallway spaces around the rest of the ‘dome skeller’ area. I don’t know what pictures the person was looking at, but it is a concrete floor during the entire time it served as a shelter.

  • In fact, here is a link that also shows the floor where the cots were that shows that it was the concrete floor at the time. http://www.miltonmckinney.com/Astrodome.htm

  • During the year, many equipment items are stored in the Dome for the Rodeo. These are brought out to be used during the show and then returned. The door was probably open due to moving things in or out.

  • When I lived in the Cement Swamp, I dreamed of visiting the Astrodome . The closesest I got was the Astro hall next door for the car shows Thanksgiving week end . I miss Houston so much , I wish I could just visit for just a week end . It’s so sad to see so many archtectural treasures just trashed !

  • Don’t forget that it wasn’t this bad before the Katrina refugees. I know an HPD officer that was there and those people trashed this place. You have no idea what went on in there and the damage they caused…don’t be too hard on the county for not keeping it up. Urinals ripped off the walls, hallways used as restrooms, those so called people acted like animals and had no respect for the shelter they were given.

  • My brother and I went into the dome last summer and it was awesome to see it again…it brought back memories of when I was a kid going to watch the Astros and hearing the announcer say “Jose cruuuuuuuz” and the night the oilers came back from Pittsburg after losing to the steelers and all the luv ya blue fans that were there to let them know that they were still there to support them and the demolition Derbys,evil,and Elvis…now it sets quiet inside there and yet in some eerie way I could still hear the people and the scoreboard going off after a home run.I’m glad we got to see it before its turned into something else or demolished.

  • Hey,

    I really would like to know which way you got in… i’d like to go in, take some pictures before they tear it down


  • boy i have herd it all money money sell sell it is part of houston and part of texas you cant tear down an land mark like the astrodome it is a historic land mark do the same thing thay did with the battleship texas are going to scrap it no and as far as mole relant also has mole part of liveing in the south.just think what you guys will lose if you tear it down save the dome

  • TNT Motorsports, The dome has quite a history with monster truck events during th 80’s 90’s. the first points champion was crowned at the dome USA-1 vs. Bigfoot, USA-1 took the victory. The dome should be saved and preserved for future generations. I remember watching so many Monster truck events at the dome on tv when I was a kid.