The year was 1965. Americans were interested in challenging the status quo by investing in projects they would only come to regret 30 years later. In this climate a new architectural legacy was born, which for better or worse, would change the landscape of American sports: Houston, Texas built the Astrodome.
The novelty of indoor and/or multi-purpose stadiums wore off by the 90's. Practical matters such as luxury boxes and sightlines rendered them obsolete. It has been 12 years since the Houston Astros moved into Minute Maid Park. The only notable event at the Astrodome since then was sheltering people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Astrodome has remained idle ever since. The roof has begun leaking severely; this has caused corrosion to appear on load bearing members, and the spread of mold throughout the building. Residents of Harris County, Texas will vote on a referendum this May to decide if hundreds of millions of dollars should be spent reviving the landmark or if $70 million should be spend on its demolition. My proposal is simple: renovate the dome and turn it into a racetrack.
In researching this proposal, I discovered the Astrodome has its own history of motorsports (outside of motocross and a parking lot Champ Car race). From 1969 to 1972 a midget race known as the Astro Grand Prix ran on a temporary clay surface inside the Astrodome on a track measuring 0.25 miles (402.336 meters). Legend has it that A.J. Foyt won the 1970 race by cutting through the infield. The race was discontinued after 1972 as dust from the clay surface was found to be damaging to the stadium's air conditioning.
As a dirt track could compromise the air conditioning, I propose using a track of either asphalt or concrete. Without any football or baseball at the stadium, there is no need for the famous (or infamous) Astroturf. To allow for a longer track, the rolling grandstands (comprising portions of the 100 and 200 levels) would be removed entirely; these were meant to swivel from a parallel configuration for football to a wedge configuration for baseball. The track would run west-to-east in a tri-oval configuration, with the start/finish line southernmost point on the track. The length of the track would be at or slightly under 0.3 miles (482.803 meters), just big enough for sprints and small enough for midgets. The access tunnel would be behind the northern straightaway.
A lot of old stadiums were demolished were demolished over the last 20 years, sometimes with good reason. There have also been examples of stadiums that become so old, they become destinations in themselves. It would be satisfying to see an old stadium saved from the wrecking ball and put to good use.
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.