Massive turnout for Astrodome's 50th birthday

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The much talked about, the highly debated and beloved-or-hated Astrodome celebrated its 50th birthday Thursday, and the celebration was so popular, tens of thousands of people lined up to take a peek inside.

The event was scheduled to end at 8pm but because there was a massive line outside still outside, officials decided to keep it open until everyone waiting got a chance to see it from the inside. At one point, the line wrapped around the dome almost twice. Officials estimate about 25,000 people came out Thursday.

"I was amazed at the amount of people that showed up," visitor Liz Wandell said.

Half a century ago to the day, the world's first air-conditioned indoor arena opened to the public for a baseball game on April 9th, 1965. The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees with a 2-1 victory.

Since the glory days of the Dome, the stadium now sits vacant and unused. According to Preservation Houston's Stephanie Anne Jones, the last event was a George Strait concert and took place in 2002.

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Jones said she truly believes the best days for the Astrodome are yet to come, even though voters rejected a multi-million dollar measure to re-purpose the stadium in 2013. Current plans on the table call for the Astrodome to be transformed into an indoor park although the main obstacle remains a lack of cash. The political reality of finding a way to spruce up the Astrodome is still very unclear.

"To add an indoor park which once again will be revolutionary, transforming the community in a totally new exciting way," said Jones in an interview with Eyewitness News. "Innovation is the key here. I think we are on to a really good plan here for the Astrodome."

PHOTOS: Inside the Astrodome

On Tuesday, the Astrodome was back open to the public, and thousands of people trickled in.

"You just can't imagine the feeling of what it was like," former Oilers Cheerleader Vivian Hemphill said. "I could remember where we were standing when we cheered and everything. It was really cool."

The event lasts until 8pm. It's free so is parking. Guests can drive in through gate 10 on the north side of NRG stadium.

"Once people get inside at this party and they remember what's it's like to look up at the ceiling and see the dome ... they are going to be completely blown away all over again," said Jones. "Love will be inspired. People will see it's an unique creation, that shouldn't be overlooked."

For more information about the event, click here.
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