Minute Maid Park - Houston Astros tickets

Minute Maid Park

formerly Enron Field and Astros Field

Houston, Texas

Tenant: Houston Astros (NL)
Opened: March 30, 2000 (exhibition against the New York Yankees)
First regular season game: April 7, 2000 (against the Philadelphia Phillies)
First regular season indoor game: May 27, 2000 (against the Atlanta Braves)
Construction began: November 1, 1997
Style: Retractable roof
Capacity: 42,000 (March 2000); 40,950 (April 2000)
Surface: Burmuda (2000); Seashore Paspalum (August 2001)

Architect: HOK Sport (Kansas City)
Construction: Brown & Root (Houston), Barton Malow (Southfield, MI) and Empire Construction
Owner: Harris County-Houston Sports Authority
Cost: $250 million
Public financing: $180 million, or 68 percent, from a 2 percent hotel tax and a 5 percent rental-car tax
Private financing: $52 million, or 20 percent, from Astros owners; $33 million, or 12 percent, from no-interest loan
Lease: 30 years (2000-2029); $7.1 million annually ($4.6 million rent; $2.5 million to capital improvements fund)

Houston Astros tickets:

Location: On the east side of downtown Houston at the corner of Crawford and Texas Streets, adjacent to Union Station and near the George R. Brown Convention Center. Left field (NW), Crawford Street; third base (SW), Texas Avenue; first base (SE), Hamilton Street; right field (NW), Congress Avenue.

Dimensions: Left field: 315 ft.; left-center: 362 feet; center field: 435 feet; right-center: 373 feet; right field: 326 feet; backstop: 49 feet.

Fences: Left field: 21 feet; center field: 9 feet; right field: 7 feet.

Materials: Concrete and steel structure clad in brick and limestone.

On May 20, 1996, a special sports task force recommended that Houston and Harris County spend $625 million to build a new baseball stadium and a new downtown basketball arena, and refit the Astrodome for football and the rodeo. It did not say how to pay for it, but it did recommend some possible revenue sources, including a sales tax and new taxes on cigarettes and mixed beverages. The report was given to Mayor Bob Lanier and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, who appointed the 23-member Houston/Harris County Sports Facility Public Advisory Committee in January 1996. The Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 and the owners of the Astros and Rockets said they would consider moving to another city unless they got new venues. The franchises said they could not make enough money in their outdated facilities to compete against teams with new parks, stadiums and arenas.

The draft report said it was difficult to measure the benefits of professional sports, but it estimated that such local businesses as restaurants and hotels earned an annual after-tax profit of $60 million on football, basketball and baseball.

Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. said a downtown stadium would be best for baseball because it would generate excitement and put the team closer to the center of the region's population. In 1995, he considered selling the Astros to Virginia businessman Bill Collins, who wanted to move the team to the suburbs south of Washington, D.C.

 

On November 5, 1996, the voters of Harris County approved the construction of a new ballpark in downtown Houston. Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. had agreed that September to keep his team in Houston if the ballot measure passed. The $265 million ballpark has a retractable roof and a natural grass playing surface. It covers about 25 acres downtown in the area just northeast of the old Union Station. The streets which encompass the area are Texas, Congress, Crawford and US highway 59. Most of that land previously consisted of parking lots.

McLane held a news conference on April 2, 1997 to discuss updates for the proposed ballpark. One new feature was an exploding scoreboard that was the biggest in baseball. It was reminiscent of the famous scoreboard that was removed from the Astrodome to expand the seating capacity in 1988. "The scoreboard will be all computer programmed," said Earl Santee, senior vice president with HOK Sports Facilities Group, which designed the stadium. "It’s a very wide scoreboard size-wise, and you can do a lot of different things with it. It’ll have the home-run signature of the old scoreboard at the Astrodome. There won’t be anything like it anywhere else. I know the fans really loved the old scoreboard, but I think they’re going to like the new one, too. We’re trying to build the best open-air ballpark possible, and we’re working as hard as we’ve ever worked on any project to make that happen."

Having a retractible roof made the Houston project special for HOK, and Santee said he believed Minute Maid Park would be baseball’s best. Santee said the retractable roof, which cost $65 million, could open or close quietly in less than 20 minutes without interrupting the game. He estimated the roof would be open 60 percent of the time. The energy cost is about $5 per usage.

On April 7, 1999, Houston-based Enron Corporation agreed to pay more than $100 million over 30 years to name the stadium Enron Field. However, on December 2, 2001 Enron became the largest corporation in history to declare bankruptcy. On February 27, 2002, the Astros made an agreement with Enron to buy back the naming rights. After two full seasons of being called Enron Field, the home of the Houston Astros then became temporarily know as Astros Field. On June 5, 2002, the Astros announced that the Minute Maid Company, a locally-based subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company since 1960, will pay an estimated $170 million for a 28-year naming rights deal.

Minute Maid Park Trivia:

  • Hosted the 2004 All-Star Game.
  • Occupies 29 acres.
  • The 242-foot high retractable roof closes in less than 20 minutes.
  • Tal’s Hill, a tribute to Crosley Field, is a 10° grass-covered incline in the deepest part of center field. It was named after the man who came up with the idea, Astros president Tal Smith.
  • As a tribute to Tiger Stadium, a flagpole stands in fair territory just two feet from the fence on Tal’s Hill.
  • State-of-the-art distributed sound system.
  • Seating bowl is air conditioned when roof is closed.
  • More than 60 suites.
  • Diamond Club is a 300-seat lounge area behind home plate.
  • Spacious clubhouse facilities for home and visiting teams as well as an officials’ locker room.
  • Batting cages and tunnels.
  • Concessions available at each level.
  • Escalators and elevators to take ticket holders to all levels.
  • Renovated areas in Union Station include space for retail and cafés, administrative offices for the Astros and a tour theater.
  • Retired Astros uniform numbers hung above the upper deck stands on the third base side: Jim Umbricht (32) in 1965, Don Wilson (40) in 1975, José Cruz (25) in 1992, Nolan Ryan (34) in 1996, Mike Scott (33) in 1992, Larry Dierker (49) in 2002, Jim Wynn (24) in 2005 and Jeff Bagwell (5) in 2007.

More on Minute Maid Park:

Recommended Reading (bibliography):

  • A Six-Gun Salute: An Illustrated History of the Houston Colt .45S, 1962-1964 by Robert Reed and Rusty Staub.
  • The Houston Astrodome by Craig A. Doherty, Katherine M. Doherty and Nicole Bowman.
  • Fodor's Baseball Vacations, 3rd Edition: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Ballparks Across America by Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel.
  • The Ultimate Baseball Road-Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums by Joshua Pahigian and Kevin O'Connell.
  • Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide by Joe Mock.
  • Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
  • The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic (Revised Edition) by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
  • Ballparks: A Panoramic History by Marc Sandalow and Jim Sutton.
  • Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit (2nd Edition) by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause.
  • Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums by Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein.
  • Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist.
  • Modern Marvels - Domed Stadiums (VHS).

Astros Field seating diagram Colt StadiumAstrodome

Houston Astros
Minute Maid Park
501 Crawford
Houston, Texas 77002

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IMAGES:

Aerial view of Minute Maid Park and downtown Houston © 2001 by Mike Smith.
All other images © 2000 by Russ Andorka and may not be reproduced without the express written permission of Russ Andorka.

Updated August 2007

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