Currents
Wonders and Numbers
Some of the stuff we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

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    This old postcard shows the outside of the Astrodome in its early days. The so-called eighth wonder of the world might get a reprieve from the wrecking ball.
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    This old postcard shows the outside of the Astrodome in its early days. The so-called eighth wonder of the world might get a reprieve from the wrecking ball.
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    The Rainbow Bridge takes drivers from Orange County way up high as it crosses the Neches River and sets them back down in Port Arthur.
    IMAGE: John Margeson
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    Author Ted Case explores the connection between electric cooperatives and U.S. presidents in his recently published book, “Power Plays: The U.S. Presidency, Electric Cooperatives and the Transformation of Rural America.”
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    Texas A&M University will expand Kyle Field's seating capacity to a whopping 102,500, making it the third-largest college football stadium in the country.
    IMAGE: Kyle Field: Brandon Rush | WikiMedia Common

We’re sort of bridging baseball season as it winds down with the beginning of football season by digging up some possibly good news about the Astrodome and dazzling statistics about a flash in the Astros’ past. Oh, and the Aggies, who put up some astounding numbers last football season, are making room for more people to share in the excitement.

 

Wonder No More


Could the eighth wonder of the world be stepping up to the plate again?

The now-abandoned Houston Astrodome made the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, but plans for a remodel might save the once-beloved building.

A pillar of innovation and a nod to Space City, the Astrodome, built for about $40 million, was the world’s first domed, air-conditioned sports stadium when it opened in 1965 as home of the Houston Astros. The dome spared fans from the ravages of Houston’s heat and humidity, and rainouts were impossible—except for one day in 1976 when torrential rains left streets around the Dome so flooded a game was called off.

The Houston Oilers also used the Astrodome but left for Tennessee after the 1996 season, and the Astros moved to a new stadium in 2000. The Astrodome has sat unused and empty since 2009.

In June, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., the group in charge of the grounds, rejected 19 proposals for the building’s future, ranging from turning it into an indoor amusement park to stripping it down and building a park on the ground level. Instead, the group submitted a $194 million plan to convert it into a convention and exhibition space, and the Harris County Commissioners Court is reviewing the proposal.

 

Somewhere over the Neches


Seventy-five years ago this month, the bridge over the Neches River that later was named the Rainbow Bridge was dedicated, connecting Port Arthur to Orange County.

The cantilevered bridge has a clearance of 176 feet, making it the tallest highway bridge in the South and one of the highest in the United States when it opened to traffic September 8, 1938. It’s still in use, as a two-lane bridge for southbound traffic. Northbound traffic uses the nearby Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, which opened in 1990.

The Rainbow’s extreme height was agreed upon by proponents and opponents so that the tallest ship afloat in 1938, the Navy dirigible tender USS Patoka, could pass under it, although it never did, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

 

‘Power Plays’ Puts Co-op History in New Light


Author Ted Case explores the connection between electric cooperatives and U.S. presidents in his recently published book, “Power Plays: The U.S. Presidency, Electric Cooperatives and the Transformation of Rural America.”

“Power Plays” tells the story of rural electrification through episodes of co-ops’ 75-year history that “vividly demonstrate that electric co-ops occupy a place in history far beyond stringing wire down a lonely country road,” writes Case, who is also the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association executive director.

To obtain this perspective on history, Case researched oral histories, presidential memos and documents and interviewed co-op leaders—including Texas Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Mike Williams. “It is helpful to know where you’ve been and how you got here,” Williams says.

The author reveals the relationships between co-ops and U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush. The book also examines co-op history in the light of historic events, such as the Vietnam War, Cuban missile crisis and Watergate scandal.

“Ultimately,” Case writes, “this book is more a story of politics than it is of the power lines.”

“Power Plays” (Ted Case, 2013) is for sale at tedcaseauthor.com.

 

By the Numbers


Our cover story on a day in the life of a college football stadium brings to mind the news earlier this year that Texas A&M University announced it will expand Kyle Field’s seating capacity from 82,589 to 102,500 starting at the end of this season. The expansion would make Kyle Field the third-largest college football stadium in the country, behind only those at Michigan and Penn State. (Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium at The University of Texas ranks sixth at 100,119.)

TAGS: Architecture, Co-ops at Work, Currents, Sports


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