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How KTRK inspired the Astrodome

Good evening friends. Not many people realize that our ABC channel 13 KTRK home here on Bissonnet Street actually inspired the design of the Eighth Wonder of the World – the Houston Astrodome.

On hand when station leaders gathered for our TV station’s groundbreaking, was channel 13 co-owner and then Houston Mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz and his daughter Dene Hofheinz.

Houston architect Herman Lloyd was hired to design a state of the art television station of tomorrow.

We opened to the public November 20th 1961.

The lobby and the main offices overlooked a beautifully landscaped patio complete with palm trees and yes a pool.

But the crème de la crème of the building, its domed roof housing not one, but two full sized television studios.

“This building will stand as a promise to you, to bring the best in this fascinating business of television,” a video produced by the station said back then.

Channel 13’s dome design fascinated Judge Hofheinz. He had just secured a professional baseball franchise for Houston and dreamed of building the team a new indoor stadium. Hofheinz reached out to Herman Lloyd to build his new stadium.

And if you look up at the ceiling here at our channel 13 news studio, you’ll see the same basic steel girder design that later went into Hofheinz’s new stadium the Astrodome, better known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The dome featured clear glass panels so grass could grow on the playing field. Only one problem, which quickly became evident in the first game between the Astros and the New York Yankees.

I was there and I saw it. When a fly ball was hit between the girders, the glass and the sun, the outfielders lost sight of the ball. As a result, the clear glass was painted over and the loss of real grass on the field led to the creation of Astroturf.

One interesting footnote, Judge Hofheinz originally called his baseball team the Colt .45s.

Due to a lawsuit by the Colt 45 firearms company, Judge Hofheinz changed the name of the team to the Houston Astros. Had the team been able to keep the name Colt .45s, the building might have been known as the Coltdome not the Astrodome. Just imagine.

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