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New Stadium for Houston Colts

May 25, 1964 - It rises incredibly out of the flat Texas plain like a giant installation from the Federal space center nearby — 9½ acres of steel and plastics, tall enough to fit Houston’s 18-story Shamrock Hotel under its skylight dome and vast enough to hold big-league baseball.

The Houston Colts will move into the mammoth structure, known for now as Harris County Domed Stadium, for opening day, 1965, and play their 81 home games there.

It will be the newest ballpark since Shea Stadium, the biggest indoor arena in the world, and the only major league field with a full roof.

It will be followed in 1966 by new stadiums for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels, in 1967 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and later one for the Philadelphia Phillies.

In Houston, six tiers will seat 45,000 in air-conditioned splendor, while the teams perform under 1,960 floodlights on grass grown experimentally at Texas A&M.

Rain may beat down on the 4,596 skylight panels, but none will fall inside. Yet, sunlight will filter through to keep the grass growing, and 2½ million cubic feet of air will be cooled and circulated each minute.

It will cost $24 million. But the Colts will get back some of their annual rent from $750,000 from the county by leasing it to the University of Houston for football, to business expositions, to rodeos, and to Billy Graham.

When Casey Stengel saw the stadium for the first time, he ruefully recalled a pop-up epidemic that had plagued his Met hitters. “We got four guys who can hit a ball off that roof,” he said.

But the Colts have already had two of their best fungo hitters try to skyrocket fly balls straight up off the arched dome. The tallest fly ball came no closer than 30 feet from the apex of the roof, 208 feet above second base.

The playing field is 25 feet below the level of the ground outside. Customers will enter the park about midway in the six seating levels and will go to their seats by escalators or ramps.

Except for the great roof and the complete circle the arena forms, the park superficially resembles Shea Stadium and will seat almost as many people. The field’s dimensions are about the same — 340 feet down each foul line and 406 to straightaway center field.

And who will wash those 4,596 window panes?

It’s believed that rain and wind will keep them clean. But if not, Al Spangler, a Colt outfielder, suggests: “If a guy goes 0-for-4 in a game, he gets the roof job.”

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