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Stadiums

Colt Stadium was the first home of Major League Baseball in Houston. Upon being awarded a National League franchise in 1960, Houston began construction on the Astrodome, but it was soon realized that the stadium would not be ready in time for the 1962 season. With this in mind, team officials decided to construct the first-ever temporary stadium in Major League history and declared that it would seat more fans than at least six other stadiums in Major League cities. Construction on Colt Stadium began on Aug. 9, 1961, just northwest of the future Astrodome site.

The Colt .45s played their first-ever regular season game on April 10, 1962, putting on a show for their fans and routing the Chicago Cubs, 11-2. Fans cheered as Bob Aspromonte scored the first run and Roman Mejias hit the first home run in team history. Houston celebrated this momentous occasion and, while the Colt. 45s did not continue these winning ways in 1962, professional baseball was the talk of the town as fans flocked to the new stadium. The Colt .45s sold out the stadium for the first time during a June 10 doubleheader. The temperatures were so sweltering that day that the team received permission to play the first Sunday night games in Major League history.

Although Colt Stadium would soon be pushed into the shadows of the Astrodome, it still had its share of unforgettable quirks. One of the most obvious of these quirks lied in the stadium seats that had colors ranging from flamingo red, burnt orange and chartreuse, to turquoise. Also unique to Colt Stadium, female ushers were dubbed "Triggerettes," and parking attendants wore orange Stetson hats with blue neckerchiefs and directed cars into sections named "Wyatt Earp Territory," "Cheyenne Bodie Territory," and "Matt Dillon Territory." On the field, the ballpark dimensions were some of the biggest in baseball, with the field measuring 420 feet to center, 395 feet to the power alleys and 360 feet down the lines in left and right. These dimensions would aid in multiple Colt .45s no-hitters by Don Nottebart and Ken Johnson.

The Colt .45s ended their short stint at Colt Stadium on Sept. 27, 1964, when they played their final home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Less than one week later, Judge Roy Hofheinz announced the end of the "Colt .45s" name as plans for a new team were announced. Plans to make Colt Stadium a Spring Training site or a high school field never materialized, and the stadium was eventually dismantled in 1970 and shipped to Torreon, Mexico, where its parts were reconstructed and became the new home of the Cotton Pickers. A structure that brought a new era of baseball to Houston, Colt Stadium, is still the only stadium ever to be sent to the Minors.

What started in the 1950s as an idea for a new regional shopping mall in Houston between Judge Roy Hofheinz and R.E. Bob Smith soon turned into one of the most memorable stadiums in the history of sports.

Upon hearing the pitch to bring a Major League Baseball team to Houston, Hofheinz and Smith quickly shifted their focus from the proposed shopping mall to a professional baseball franchise playing in the first-ever domed stadium. Hofheinz presented the idea of the stadium to the National League owners on Oct. 17, 1960, and, on that same day, Houston was granted a National League franchise to begin playing in 1962.

Less than three months later on Jan. 3, 1962, members of the Harris County Commissioners and Houston Sports Association broke ground by simultaneously firing Colt .45 pistols into the dirt. Construction of the new domed stadium would cost a grand total of $45 million and took just over three years to complete. In December of 1964, just four months before the first game was scheduled to be played, Judge Roy Hofheinz announced that the Houston baseball franchise, temporarily known as the Colt .45s, would be renamed the Astros and that the newly constructed domed stadium would be called the Astrodome.

The Astros played their first-ever game in the Astrodome on April 9, 1965, in an exhibition against the New York Yankees. Standing 210 feet tall and 710 feet wide, the Astrodome was built to support 16 million pounds and withstand wind gusts of 165 mph. On the inside, the Astrodome featured a variety of clubs and restaurants including The Countdown Cafeteria, The Trailblazer Restaurant and the private Astrodome Club. The Astrodome also featured one of the most colorful seating bowls in baseball and was the first stadium to feature luxurious skyboxes that often hosted movie stars and government officials. Perhaps the most magnificent aspect of the Astrodome was the 474-foot tall scoreboard that displayed the famous "Home Run Spectacular" after Astros home runs.

While the Astrodome created a buzz across the United States, it did experience its share of issues early on. The first of these issues came from the players who complained of a massive glare reflecting from the Astrodome skylights. To combat this glare, Hofheinz ordered that the skylights be painted with translucent acrylic coating, which helped improve the glare conditions significantly. But the reduced sunlight ultimately killed the grass playing surface in the Astrodome. Searching for an alternative, Hofheinz offered the Astrodome as a free test site for a new artificial playing surface. The playing surface received rave reviews from players and coaches and was installed in 1966 making the Astros the first team to use "AstroTurf."

The Astrodome was home to a variety of other teams and events throughout its history, including Rodeo Houston and the Houston Oilers. It also hosted professional and collegiate basketball games as well as the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. While the Astrodome was home to a large variety of teams, events and showcases, the magnificent domed stadium will always be rememberd as the 35-year home of the Houston Astros from 1965-2000.

As the Astrodome entered its final years at the tail end of the 20th century, Astros owner Drayton McClane set the wheels in motion and began plans for a 42,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark in downtown Houston. The design of this new stadium, under the working name "Ballpark at Union Station," included a variety of features that recalled Houston's past, the current Astrodome and several new-age ballpark additions. Built around the original Union Station site, the ballpark represented some of Houston's oldest roots as many parts of the stadium were designed to reflect Houston's storied past. Perhaps the biggest example is the 19th century replica locomotive in left field that is used to celebrate Astros home runs and victories. The new stadium also included several aspects of the Astrodome that helped to make it such a magnificent venue, including air-conditioning, luxury suites and large scoreboards. Also, in an attempt to combine the Astrodome's biggest feature with new age technology, plans for a retractable roof drew significant buzz throughout the Houston community.

Plans for the construction of the Ballpark at Union Station were put into action on Oct. 30, 1997, when ground was officially broken at a ceremony that included Astros top executives. Exactly two years and five months later, the Astros reintroduced Hosuton to outdoor baseball as the Astros were able to play outdoors on a real grass surface in a March 30 exhibition against the New York Yankees. Downtown Houston's newest attraction drew fans from across the country in its inaugural season as the Astros would set an all-time attendance record of 3,056,139 fans. Originally called Enron Field, Minute Maid Park continues to attract fans eager to see the retractable roof or watch a player adjust to Tal's Hill in centerfield.

While the history of Minute Maid Park is relatively short, Astros fans have been able to see a variety of milestones during its 11 years in downtown Houston. Those include Jeff Bagwell's 300th career homerun in 2000, Barry Bonds' single-season record-tying 70th home run in 2001, Craig Biggio's 500th career double in 2003, The first ever World Series game in Texas in October 2005, Craig Biggio's 3,000th hit on June 28, 2007 and Roger Clemens' 4,137th strikeout in 2004. That moved Clemens into second place on the all-time list behind Nolan Ryan.