As for the pistols used that day, Acosta said that they’ve been somewhat lost to history, although they would make fine additions to the Astros memorabilia collection. Acosta does have some dirt from the groundbreaking ceremony which was placed in commemorative jars and given out as souvenirs that January day.
The Dome took nearly three years to construct, and three workers died building it. Homer B. Williams, a welder, fell to his death in May 1964. Frank Halliburton died during a fall a month earlier. Leon Homer died on the job in 1963.
They were working on a structure that many said “couldn’t be done,” according to the National Register nomination. By the time it opened, the Astrodome had earned another nickname: the “Can-do Cathedral,” according to the nomination.
The team’s name was changed to the Astros in December 1964 to match their new digs.
The Astrodome opened its doors for the first time on April 9, 1965 for an exhibition game between the Astros and the New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle hit the first home run, but the Astros won the game 2-1 in 12 innings.
Fun fact: The Astrodome could have been built in Memorial Park but local luminary Ima Hogg shot down the plan as her family had donated the land in the first place.