Katrina refugees en route to Astrodome stadium

The announcement yesterday that as many as 23,000 Hurricane Katrina refugees will be bused from the New Orleans Superdome to the Astrodome in Houston focused the spotlight on a pair of buildings once viewed as engineering marvels that have been turned into relics by the fast-changing economics of the sports world they helped to revolutionize.

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The Astrodome, which opened in 1965, and Superdome, which opened in 1975, are national and local icons, identified with Houston and New Orleans as much as the Golden Gate Bridge is with San Francisco and the Empire State Building with New York. They ushered in a period of domed multi-sport facilities, introducing fans to AstroTurf, luxury suites and climate-controlled sporting events.

"They are the super-daddies of their times," said Janet Marie Smith, who helped design Oriole Park at Camden Yards and now works for the Boston Red Sox. "Most of their sister facilities of that era, the era of multipurpose stadiums, are gone. Clearly there is structural stability to them. The question is whether or not there is an economic life for them. What a curious way for us to be forced to explore their future than through this natural disaster," reports Washington Post.

Dr. Kevin Stephens Sr., in charge of the special needs shelter at the dome, described the Superdome and a nearby arena as a health department's nightmare.

"These conditions are atrocious," he said. "We'll take trucks, planes, boats, anything else, I have to get these people out of here."

By midafternoon, medics were hauling people off one after another because of heat-related problems. Even as the evacuation was going on, people walked through waist-deep water to get to the Superdome.

Tempers flared in the crowd. One woman yelled: "You're just lying to us! You had us standing all day in this heat, and you're lying to us. You're not taking us anywhere!"

The oficer yelled back, "Look, ma'am, do you think I'm in charge? Do you think I'm making decisions? I told you what they told me."

But overall, there was little trouble. People got angry and frustrated and occasionally screamed, but people generally seemed to get along.

The noise around the dome was constant. Helicopters took off and landed on the helipad outside. Generators ran. Trucks backed up and moved past. Every time one baby stopped screaming two more seemed to start. And there was the constant roar of thousands of conversations going on at once, informs Times Daily.

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