Minute Maid Park – Houston Astros

by | Jul 15, 2018 | Michael Davis, MLB | 0 comments

Fanfare Score

Total Score
4.29

Crowd Score

Total Score
4.19

 

 

 

Astros Excitement at Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park was built on the former site of Houston’s Union Station train depot in downtown to replace the Astros’ former home, the legendary Houston Astrodome. The Astrodome was known worldwide as the 8th wonder of the world, but after 35 years in the world’s first multi-purpose dome stadium, the Astros moved into their new retractable-roof baseball stadium.

Originally named The Ballpark at Union Station, the venue became a victim of corporate sponsorship and was renamed Enron Field. After the tragic fall of the Enron Corporation, the stadium was simply referred to as Astros Field until in the middle of the 2002 season when the current sponsor Minute Maid bought the naming rights.

Affectionately known among fans as “The Juice Box,” Minute Maid Park is a hitter’s paradise, with a left field distance of 315 feet and a right field distance of 326 feet from home plate. The power alleys are a modest 365 feet, with center field being a respectable 409 feet. The venue hosts the Houston College Classic baseball tournament every February, and has also been used for non-baseball events such as concerts, Super Bowl Media Day, and a boxing match.

Food & Beverage 5

Minute Maid Park continues the recent trend of Major League ballparks offering fare beyond the traditional hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack; there is an abundance of food and drink items available at the stadium. Aramark, the ballpark food and beverage company, brings local flavors from the city of Houston into the menu, such as Jackson BBQ, St Arnolds Bar, Osso and Kristalla, and Torchy’s Tacos. The basic hamburgers and hot dogs have a Texas connection, as the meat is 100% Nolan Ryan Beef. Much of the food selection seems to be a choice of Tex-Mex and barbecue throughout the park, including Texas Smoke, Jackson BBQ, Taco Trio, Quesadilla, and HTX MEX on the Honda Club level.

There are also a few highlights included in the fare here at Minute Maid Park, for example the Street Eats concessions stand located near sections 124 and 408 offers a couple of unique items. The first is the Chicken Waffle Cone, in which fried chicken bits and mashed potatoes fill a sweet waffle cone, and the entire dish is drizzled with honey mustard, while their second unique option is the La Michoacana Mexican street tacos (three to an order).

The unfortunate thing about the food and beverages at Minute Maid Park is that the prices seem to be higher than at other ballparks – there are ways of cutting prices by going the combo route, but items can still range from $9 up to $18. The sweet tooth isn’t any cheaper, either, as signature Texas staples such as Blue Bell Ice Cream ($6.95 for a two-scoop souvenir mini batting helmet), Minute Maid frozen treats, and handmade funnel cakes aren’t much cheaper. FiveSeven Market offers Healthy food alternatives including salads and vegetarian entrées, as do H Town Grille (sections 109, 126, 407) and Texas Legends (section 230).

Minute Maid Park serves Coca-Cola products ranging from $5 for a small to the $8.50 souvenir cup. The alcohol prices are high as well, and range from $9.50 to $13.25. If you are going the beer route then one of the better locations is in the concourse just behind the Crawford boxes, in the remnants of Union Station (the old train depot). In this area the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewery in the state of Texas, has a set up a pub to sample all of its finest beers. The selection in this one location goes above and beyond your typical ballpark beers, but the local brewery Karbach is popular around the ballpark as well. Check out this link for a full list of concessions and locations at Minute Maid Park.

Atmosphere5

The resurgence of fans attending Houston Astros games after the recent championship year has created a great atmosphere compared to past seasons of a half-filled Minute Maid Park, and the echoes of emptiness throughout the venue. The fans are now lining the entrances up to 3 hours before game time to start the pre-game atmosphere, and the proximity to Houston’s vibrant downtown area adds to the festive feel.

Once inside the ballpark, Houston Astros fans can choose to either visit the team’s pro shop or check out the revamped center field area. The pro shop in Union Station holds the 2017 World Series Champions trophy as well as the Silver Boot Trophy –  the Silver Boot Trophy is awarded each year to the overall series winner between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. The center field area has features such as Torchy Tacos, Budweiser Brew House, and the Budweiser Batter Eye Bar, which are great places to meet people or watch batting practice. Another popular spot for pre-game is Home Run Alley – inside Home Run Alley, the Astros Street Art Display presented by PPG Paints is an opportunity to bring in some of Houston’s amazing local artistry for fans to view and take photos. For Sunday games, kids can get their face painted, or get caricatures from caricature artists, and a virtual experience batting cage is set up nearby for fans to take swings.

The Astros take to the field with flair, with a train blowing its whistle as it moves across the track from center field to left. Houston Astros fans are also engaged, creating a high-energy atmosphere throughout the game, and there is also Orbit, the green alien mascot that interacts with the crowd, and at times helps start chants. The fans, the sellouts, and the Astros winning play are a great combination in creating the recent outstanding atmosphere inside Minute Maid Park.

Neighborhood 4

Minute Maid Park is in the heart of Houston’s vibrant downtown – the ballpark neighborhood is close to Houston’s historic warehouse and museum districts, and the venue shares the area with the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Houston Rockets’ Toyota Center, and the MSL Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium.

Being situated in downtown gives fans an abundant choice for dining and entertainment both before and after the game. The most popular places to visit are Home Plate Bar & Grill and HTX Fan Tavern – these eateries are directly across the street from Minute Maid Park’s clock tower entrance. However, be prepared to wait on game days, as the service is slow, so my personal suggestion would be either Jackson BBQ or Little Woodrow’s. Although Little Woodrow’s is closer to BBVA Compass Stadium, it is only a 10-minute walk from Minute Maid Park, and there is a local brewery nearby as well, the 8th Wonder Brewery, which is about a 15-minute walk from the ballpark. However, if you prefer to stay closer to Minute Maid Park, you should try Jackson Street BBQ on the Congress Ave side of the venue, or Osso & Kristalla on Texas Street.

Fans 5

The City of Houston is the largest US city that has only one baseball team – the top three cities each support two teams, which gives the Houston Astros a large population to draw its fan base from. The 2017 World Series Champions have hit a home run in attendance this 2018 season; the Astros are averaging 36,156 fans per game through 46 home contests this year so far, which is an increase of 20% from 2016, and almost double that of teams that lost over 100 games last season. The stats show that everyone loves a winner, and Astros fans are back supporting their champions. The fans are selling out Minute Maid Park and wearing all types of Astros gear, especially World Series Champion gear.  It’s a great time to be an Astros fan these days, and that is felt all throughout the stadium.

The Astros couldn’t have picked a better time to become champions, after the City of Houston went through the horrible destruction from Hurricane Harvey – the Astros championship run was just what Houstonians needed to start the healing process.

Access 4

Minute Maid Park is a downtown ballpark, easily accessible from major highways and interstates such as I-45, I-10, and I-69/US Highway 59. There are plenty of parking garages in the area, and the Houston Astros state that about 25,000 spaces are available in the nearby garages. However, outside parking lots and spaces along the streets are also available.

Another advantage of a downtown ballpark location is there are several easy options in terms of public transportation.  For example, the Houston’s Metro Rail System consists of light rail and bus stations near Minute Maid Park, so the Metro is a great way to avoid parking fees and traffic. There are also taxis and Uber/Lyft drop off areas near the stadium – the taxi stand is located one block south of Minute Maid Park, while the Uber stand is located just outside the center field gate on Crawford Street between Preston Street and Congress Avenue. There are also two airports that served the city of Houston – George Bush International, 20 miles to the north of the ballpark, and William P. Hobby International, 10 miles south.

The gates at Minute Maid Park open two hours prior to game time, and in accordance with Major League Baseball’s guidelines, fans will go through metal detectors. Fans can bring in one clear plastic bottle of water, no larger than one liter, and food contained in a clear plastic bag, not larger than one gallon. There are eight entrances around the ballpark with the unique one being the Union Station entrance. Inside the ballpark, the concourses are wide enough for fans to walk around, but the first level is the only one where the concourse circles the entire field. Minute Maid Park is very easy to access since it is downtown, but the flip side is that the traffic afterwards doesn’t seem to be efficient enough to give an Access rating of five stars.

Return on Investment 3

The Houston Astros use flex pricing for single game tickets, which means prices are based on supply and demand. The more popular and weekend games start at $19 for outfield deck seats (400 level), while less interesting/weekday games can be bought for as low as $8 per person. The increase of interest in Astros tickets has already created sellouts, so another option is standing room only tickets for $22. Due to the recent success of the Houston Astros, tickets for lower levels are harder to obtain – this has led to inflated third-party seller prices for fans wanting to have good seats.

The parking lots around Minute Maid Park range between $25 and $40 per car, while there is parking available for $5 to $20 per car in the outer city parking lots. Also, the food and drink options are great here, but their prices seem to be above that of the already over-priced concessions at other parks.

Minute Maid Park is an excellent experience, since the Astros have become an exciting team to watch, but supply and demand for tickets has raised prices. However, Minute Maid Park is a spectacular venue for baseball – the sight lines are all wonderful, the food is first-class, there is an energizing atmosphere, and the City of Houston is a great city to visit for food and culture.

Minute Maid Park is almost 20 years old, yet the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark will be very similar. This shows that Minute Maid Park was ahead of its time, and is a ballpark that fans will enjoy.

Extras 4

Minute Maid Park became the fourth Major League ballpark to have a retractable roof – the 6-acre roof can be opened and closed in 14-20 minutes, allowing fans to be protected from Houston’s high summer humidity. In addition, the construction idea to incorporate the old Union Station as a focal point of the ballpark provides Minute Maid Park a special feature unique from other stadiums. Also, the full-size locomotive engine and container car in left center field are incorporated into every game; the train whistle blows every time an Astro clubs a dinger, and the whistle is part of the fan’s celebration.  Finally, the Houston Astros long-time mascot Orbit is described as everyone’s favorite alien – this little green man is a real crowd pleaser, and can be found at every home game interacting with fans and players on the field.

The lower concourse at Minute Maid Park is open, and provides several vantage points for fans, the most popular being the Phillips 66 Home Run Porch in left-center field. This platform is over the field of play, and features a classic petrol pump that displays the total number of Houston Astros home runs hit since the park opened.

Final Thoughts

Minute Maid Park is closing in on 20 years of providing baseball to the city of Houston. The well-maintained stadium mixes fan comfort with the convenience of a downtown neighborhood, and the team recently announced plans to extend their lease at Minute Maid Park through 2050.  “The Astros look forward to furthering our investment in downtown Houston and calling Minute Maid Park our home through 2050,” Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane said in a statement recently released by the Houston Sports Authority and the Houston Astros. “We appreciate the commitment of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to keep the Astros in the heart of downtown, and we remain committed to making the fan experience at Minute Maid Park first class.”  This agreement shows that the Astros are committed, and that a visit to Houston and Minute Maid Park is worth the journey.

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Food and Drink Recommendations

Home Plate Bar & Grill

1800 Texas St

Houston, TX 77003

(713) 222-9977

http://www.homeplategrill.com/


Jackson Street BBQ

209 Jackson St

Houston, TX 77002

(713) 224-2400

http://jacksonstbbqhouston.com/


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Entertainment Recommendations

Discovery Green

1500 McKinney St

Houston, TX 77010

https://www.discoverygreen.com/


Downtown Aquarium, Houston

410 Bagby St

Houston, TX 77002

(713) 223-3474

http://www.aquariumrestaurants.com/downtownaquariumhouston/


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Lodging Recommendations

 

Hilton Americas-Houston

1600 Lamar St

Houston, TX 77010

(713) 739-8000

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/texas/hilton-americas-houston/


 

The Westin Houston Downtown

1520 Texas St

Houston, Texas 77002

(713) 228-1520

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/


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Crowd Reviews

Latest Crowd Reviews

Date: 2018-02-19 14:04:54
By: Marc Viquez

Total Score
4

No writeup submitted.

Date: 2017-12-15 13:08:12
By: tejasduck4

Total Score
4.14

No writeup submitted.

Date: 2017-11-04 01:23:44
By: Lloyd Rothwell

Total Score
4.43

The Astros have done an impressive job. The food was amongst the best I&#039ve had in a ballpark, with plenty of affordable options in addition to the extravagant choices. The incorporation of the old Union Station into the park was a masterstroke.

Stadium Info

Minute Maid Park
501 Crawford St
Houston, TX 77002

Houston Astros website

Minute Maid Park website

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 40,963

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