There’s a certain allure that comes with sporting events being played on the wrong surfaces, and the in wrong locations.
When James Naismith started throwing a leather ball into a peach basket, he didn’t envision 10 guy's on a hardwood court, inside a massive dome that seats 70,000.
But here we are…or rather, it’s where we were.
Defunct multi-purpose stadiums had individuality. As crazy as it sounds, football was intended to be played on an infield diamond, and we’ve been robbed of that sacred sacrament since 2019.
Dual stadiums built in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were mainly occupied by what the name implies. Two team tenants, with the occasional concert, or one-off NCAA game.
Very rarely would you get architecture that could harness a triple threat, but when you did, it was an extraordinary sight.
The Astrodome opened in 1965 as the world’s first multi-functional domed stadium, and The Houston Astros launched with it.
Formerly the Colt .45s, Houston’s baseball team was lousy in the 60’s…and yet fans packed the stands. Why? Houstonians came to see ‘The 8th Wonder of the World.’ The Astros were top 10 in attendance from 65’-71’, and were below .500 on the field for each of those seasons.
Who wouldn’t want to travel from near and far to see Astrolite in all of it’s glory.
The Houston Oilers became the 2nd pro-team to lease out the old sports bubble in 1967, and the first pro football team to play their home games inside a domed stadium.
The last game the Astrodome saw the Oilers play with real stakes was a 1993 Divisional Round loss to the Kansas Chiefs. Before the 90’s though, ‘Space City’ and the boys in Columbia Blue had a decent amount of noteworthy moments.
Particularly from their Hall of Fame running back, Earl Campbell, who put his head through Ram’s linebacker, Isiah Robertson’s sternum in 1978.
Don’t forget about the ripped jersey either…‘The Tyler Rose’ was a bad man.
Ironically, the Rockets played their first game in the Astrodome while still in San Diego. Once they relocated to H-Town in 1971, they had a part-time residency, playing in multiple arenas and stadiums in Houston.
The Rockets used the air bubble sporadically, but basketball has a historic resonance in the Astrodome as it was the host to the ‘Game of the Century’ in 1968, and the 1989 NBA All-Star Game.
The Astros moved to Enron field in 2000, The Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1996, & the Rockets settled into The Summit in 1975.
Before Action Green, the Seattle Seahawks wore a simple grey, blue, and white combination, and it commenced in 1976, in tandem with the Kingdome.
The first of the three Kingdome dwellers, the Seahawks were an expansion team, and like most newcomers to a league, they didn’t find much success on the field early on.
However, they did discover the power of crowd noise. As the 12th man found their voice, the Kingdome became one of the loudest stadiums to play in within the NFL. So much so, Commission Pete Rozelle instituted a rule regarding excessive crowd noise.
Joining the Seahawks one year later in 1977, the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team in the Pacific Northwest.
As we’ve previously covered, usually the newbie doesn’t fair well. This became especially true for the Mariners as they didn’t have a winning season until 1991.
But they did have ‘The Kid.’ Ken Griffey Jr. somewhat bookends the Kingdome for the Mariners as he homered in his 1st ever at bat in 89’ at the dome, and hit the last bomb the complex would see in 1999.
Founded in 1967, the SuperSonics didn’t enter the Kingdome until 1978. They did so on the opposite end of the Seahawks and Mariners, because they were actually good.
The Sonics won the NBA Championship in 1979 as a full-time resident of the Kingdome, and set many attendance records in the late 70’s.
Seattle’s basketball team wasn’t treated with the respect it deserved, as their success on the court still saw them play second fiddle to the Mariners. They regularly had home games relocated due to scheduling conflicts with their city siblings…and now there’s no basketball at all in Seattle, what a shame.
The Seahawks vacated the Kingdome in 2000 to Husky Stadium temporarily, before permanently moving to what’s now Lumen Field in 2002. The Mariners relocated to Safeco Field in 1999, & the Sonics moved back to KeyArena in 1985.
The frigid temperatures, and small capacity of Metropolitan Stadium saw the Vikings and Twins move into the Metrodome when it broke ground in 1982.
The Metrodome was originally designed to accommodate the Vikings. The purple people eater’s climate controlled dome hasn’t helped them secure a championship though, as the Vikings have the highest win percentage of any NFL team without a title.
Fans of the purple and gold would say the team lost a big part of their cold weather home field advantage since they moved indoors. But the Dome did host the 1989 Super Bowl, which saw Washington beat Buffalo…has anyone found Thurman Thomas’ helmet yet?
34 Kirby Puckett Place housed the city’s championship moments in 1987 and 1991. The Twins won two World Series’ in the Metrodome beating the St. Louis Cardinals in 87’ and the Atlanta Braves in 91’.
Not only did the Twins clinch two titles in ‘The Thunderdome,’ both were won in dramatic seven game fashion. Rumors swirled that Minnesota pumped fake crowd noise into the Metrodome, if you think Twins fans care about that, I can tell you, they do not.
In their inaugural season, the Timberwolves played their home games in the Metrodome as the Target Center was completed. The Wolves went 22-60 in their first year, but set an NBA record with league attendance over the span of 41 games.
The Vikings left the Metrodome in 2013, as preparations for the new U.S. Bank Stadium began. The Twins moved into Target Field in 2010, and the Wolves finalized their move to the Target Center in 1990.
These stadiums were far from perfect for players and fans alike. Having a restricted view of the Oilers due to the Astro’s foul pole, or needing to bring binoculars to the T-Wolves game because you’re sitting in the upper deck at the Viking’s 50-yard line mark is not ideal.
As for the players? They'd probably tell you AstroTurf sucked.
These stadiums weren’t soulless creations though. They may not of had stylish suites, or luxury boxes, but they had personality and charisma.
All sporting facilities are not created equal.