A Modest Proposal for the Astrodome
Houston could use its own version of the Guggenheim Museum that Frank Lloyd Wright built in New York., and the Astrodome is available. It is otherwise useless now and too expensive too demolish. And it has never been an entirely hospitable place for viewing sports. The Astroturf plasticized everything; high flies sometimes hit the roof. In the early 1970’s, the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament were played there. The court was like an index card placed over second base; the temporary seats on the ground were below the natural sight-lines to the elevated playing floor; in the seats in the stands, you felt as far away as Fort Bend County.
Minute Maid is better, maybe, but feels like a huge and very aggressive infomercial: so many signs, so much distraction. Very few people actually watch the game on the field. They eat and drink, socialize, watch their kids, who are not paying attention either. There are always lines at the concessions and conversations in the concourse. When anything important happens, the announcer alerts the crowd, who then turn to the giant video screens and watch real life in re-play.
What are the chances a home-run can unite a crowd like this and bring them to their feet and the top of their voice? Not as good, by a long shot, as with a crowd in a sports bar, which also has its distractions. But a sports bar has a roof because it is supposed to: it is a room intended for drinking and watching television.
The Guggenheim isn’t perfect for every kind of show. But its shape resembles the Dome’s, and the descent along its great spiral ramp provides a field of vision unlike that of any other museum I have been in. The only distractions are the pictures themselves.