Images © 1972 Houston Sports Association, Inc.

Bigger 'n Texas!
The brainchild of Judge Roy Hofheinz after having visited the Coliseum in Rome, he wanted to built a huge shopping complex inside a geodesic dome. Buckminster Fuller was called in as a consultant and the initial shopping center idea morphed into what would become the Astrodome--"The Eighth Wonder of the World!"

By the time it was built in 1965, $35 million had been spent--quite a sum back in those days. Innovative in all ways, the Astrodome was the first all-weather multi-use facility of its type. With the citizens of Houston behind him, the Judge's project expanded to include the Astrohall, Astroworld, and the Astroworld hotel complex.
Houston-Astrodome, Texas -- 2360 South Loop West (I-610)

Unhampered by the bureaucratic red-tape of today or the ire of people offended at everything, Judge Hofheinz's vision became reality.

Alas the ultra-modern Astrodome has become a relic of the space-age future that was promised in the 1960s, but never quite arrived. Having been abandoned by Houston's professional sports teams even after a $65 million makeover in 1989, it now mainly hosts small events and tractor/trailer pulling contests. In 2005 it received world-wide attention as it briefly housed Hurricane Katrina refugees from New Orleans. A 2004 proposal called for the "eighth wonder of the world" to be converted into a hotel and convention center, but renovation costs were estimated at a whopping $400 million!

Since our throw-away culture has cast aside the Astrodome, a Landmark so large that it ushered in a whole new age for sports arenas and led to the development of artificial turf among other innovations, what hope can we have for saving even ONE Orange Roof... 

After it was built, the 20 acre Astrodomain hotel complex offered its guests the choice of four lodging facilities--Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Howard Johnson's, and the nine-story Astroworld Hotel.
Howard Johnson's, by having a Motor Lodge/Restaurant in the shadow of the Astrodome, further associated itself with the modernity of the space age.  
Postcard circa 1970s (detail)

Photograph courtesy of Phil Edwards
USGS satellite image: © Microsoft Corp

The Astroworld Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge and Restaurant complex opened in the summer of 1968. It remained associated and under the same ownership as the other Astrodomain lodging outfits. By 1977 the Motor Lodge ceased carrying the HJ name. Not long after that, the entire 1,000 guest room Astrodomain hotel complex was consolidated further. After the last of the original franchise agreements expired, the whole development became known as the Astro Village Hotel Complex. In the early 1990s it took the Sheraton name--by then the Sheraton brand had moved upscale, no longer did the brand offer Motor Inns like the one that had originally been at the Astrodomain.

By Phil Edwards' visit in the early 2000s, the former HoJo's had been a Shoney's Inn, but was wearing the Guesthouse Inn and Suites badge. In the end, the entire Astrodomain complex will likely all be demolished.

Photographs courtesy of Phil Edwards
Looking east, the Gate Lodge was about where the grassy area is in Phil's Photo. Amazingly the circa 1968 Howard Johnson's Restaurant carried on after the Motor Lodge was de-oranged. A high volume location, it was one of the last three stand-alone HoJo's in Texas, lasting until the Company's demise in the middle 1980s. After that, the Restaurant was demolished and a Shoney's was built. Still open in 2006, it is the LAST Shoney's Restaurant location in the Houston area.


Astroworld's Future Fantasies

Like a young tree, Astroworld has been planned to grow and grow. New rides, new entertainment areas, new cultural facilities ... they're all on the drawing board for Astroworld USA. The project will NEVER be completed ... there will always be something fresh and new and fantastic to attract the interests of the entire family.

Broken Promises
Astroworld, having become part of theme park giant Six Flags, was closed forever on October 30, 2005.