The Juice Box
View of Minute Maid Park among Houston's Downtown skyline
|Former names||The Ballpark at Union Station (2000)|
Enron Field (2000-2002)
Astros Field (February-July 2002)
|Address||501 Crawford Street|
|Public transit|| METRORail:|
Convention District Station
3, 6, 11, 20, 30, 37, 48, 50, 77, 137, 163, 236, 255, 256, 257
|Parking||Estimated 25,000 total spots within walking distance|
|Owner||Harris County-Houston Sports Authority|
|Operator||Harris County-Houston Sports Authority|
|Record attendance||44,203, September 26, 2001|
|Field size||Left field - 315 feet (96.0 m)|
Left-center - 362 feet (110.3 m)
Left-center (deep) - 404 feet (123.1 m)
Center field - 409 feet (124.7 m)
Right-center (deep) 408 feet (124.4 m)
Right-center - 373 feet (113.7 m)
Right field - 326 feet (99.4 m)
Backstop - 49 feet (15 m)
|Surface||Platinum TE Paspalum|
|Scoreboard||54 feet (16.5 m) high by 124 feet (37.8 m) wide|
|Broke ground||November 1, 1997|
|Opened||March 30, 2000 (Exhibition)|
April 7, 2000 (Regular Season)
|Renovated||2010 (Off season) 2017 (Off season)|
|Construction cost||$250 million|
($371 million in 2019 dollars)
|Architect||HOK Sport (now Populous)|
Molina & Associates
|Project manager||Schindewolfe and Associates|
|Structural engineer||Walter P Moore|
|Services engineer||M-E Engineers, Inc. (Bowl)|
Uni-Systems, Inc. (Roof)
|General contractor||Brown & Root/Barton Malow/Empire Joint Venture|
|Houston Astros (MLB) (2000-present)|
Minute Maid Park, previously named The Ballpark at Union Station, Enron Field, and Astros Field, is a ballpark in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States, which opened in 2000 as the home stadium of the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB). The ballpark is Houston's first retractable-roofed stadium, and features a natural grass playing field. The ballpark was built as a replacement for the Astrodome, the first domed sports stadium ever built, which opened in 1965. It is named for beverage brand Minute Maid, a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company, which acquired naming rights in 2002 for $100 million over 30 years. As of 2016, Minute Maid Park has a seating capacity of 41,168, which includes 5,197 club seats and 63 luxury suites.
In 1909, during the time when West End Park was Houston's premier ballpark, the Houston Belt and Terminal Railway Company commissioned the design of a new union station for the city from New York City-based architects Warren and Wetmore. The location called for the demolition of several structures of Houston prominence. Horace Baldwin Rice's residence and Adath Yeshurun Congregation's synagogue among other structures were removed.
With an original estimated cost of US$1 million, Union Station was constructed by the American Construction Company for an eventual total of five times that amount. Exterior walls were constructed of granite, limestone, and terracotta, while the interior used an extensive amount of marble. It was completed and opened on March 1, 1911. At the time, Houston, with 17 railways, was considered the main railroad hub of the Southern United States. This is also evident by the Seal of Houston, which prominently features a locomotive. Two more floors were added the following year.
The station served as the main inter-city passenger terminal for Houston for over seven decades thereafter. Passenger rail declined greatly after World War II, and the last regularly-scheduled train, the Lone Star, moved its service to Houston's current Amtrak station on July 31, 1974. With this move, the building effectively became abandoned. On November 10, 1977, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.
In August 1995, Astros owner Drayton McLane, then leasing the Astrodome from Harris County, commented to the Houston Chronicle that he was not in the market for a new ballpark. In reference to Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium and Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, McLane noted, "[...] I remember when those were built in the 1970s and those were as good a stadiums as there were. They were the most modern stadiums in the world, and now they're saying they're all bad. That they can't make a go of it without a new stadium. It helps, but there are other things involved."
Later that year, Houston's NFL franchise and joint-tenant of the Astrodome, the Houston Oilers, announced they were leaving to Nashville, Tennessee in order to have a new stadium built for the team there. Citing a lack of adequate luxury boxes, in October, Astros Vice-President Bob McClaren claimed that renovations to the Astrodome would help increase revenue. Drayton McLane pointed toward Astrodome renovations as necessary saying "It's 30 years old and not a lot of money has been spent to remodel it." According to the organization, the team was in danger of being sold to a Virginia businessman who was expected to move the Astros to the Washington D.C. area because of poor revenue.
In June 1996, University of Houston alumnus, BMC Software and San Diego Padres owner, John J. Moores, who wanted to own the next NFL franchise in Houston, met with Texas State Senator Mario Gallegos, Jr., and other local Hispanic leaders in regard to the future of a football-only Astrodome and a new baseball-only ballpark in Downtown Houston. Meanwhile, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels pieced together a plan to build a new ballpark next to the Astrodome in the Astrodomain. The Astros echoed the Astrodomain location sentiment because they believed construction time would be shorter. Eckels, who convinced then Mayor Bob Lanier of the lack of viability for the ballpark in a downtown location, was quoted as saying, "They keep telling me about these miracles in other cities, but it doesn't work in Houston [...] If we are going to put this stadium some place, let's stick with a proven place." This plan was considered to be nearly finalized when the Astros and Harris County agreed to a US$250 million county-funded stadium whose overrun costs would be funded by the Astros.
In August 1996, Houston's Union Station received a US$2 million grant from the Texas Transportation Commission for renovation in a separate project. Plans for the new ballpark's location drastically changed by September mostly in response to Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay's input and pledge to substantially contribute to funding if placed downtown. It was at this time where the Union Station location was proposed by Lay. Upon an agreement between all of the leadership entities, the idea of a retractable roof stadium was confirmed for the new ballpark. A November referendum was planned for Harris County residents to approve the deal.
The Harris County referendum that took place on November 5, 1996, to help fund the ballpark passed by a narrow margin of 51% to 49%. In response to the referendum, during the 75th Texas Legislature Texas State Senator John Whitmire of Houston sponsored a bill supported by five of the six area Harris County senators that would create the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. With companion House Bill 92 authored by Houston-born Representative Kim Brimer voted upon and adopted by both chambers, the authorization for creation of a sports authority was approved. It was signed into law by Governor George W. Bush on June 2, 1997. The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority would assist in financing for the new ballpark as well as allow for renovation of the Astrodome by allowing for special county-wide taxation of rental cars, tickets, parking, and hotel use.
In June 1997, with the ability to create a sports authority signed into law, concurrent votes of the Harris County Commissioners' Court and the Houston City Council to establish the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority on effective September 1, 1997. Its chairman and 12 other directors were jointly appointed by the Mayor of Houston and Harris County Judge. The institution remains in existence today.
The ballpark was named "Enron Field" after a $100 million, 30-year naming rights deal was made with Enron on April 7, 1999.
Early stadium sketches from Kansas City-based HOK Sport (now Populous) using the working title "The Ballpark at Union Station" were released to the public on October 11, 1996, where Astros President Tal Smith was open about his suggestions for the stadium including the location of the flagpole in center field and a traditional dirt path from the pitcher's mound to home plate. While the dirt path was not implemented, the flagpole idea became known as "Tal's Hill" and remained a signature feature of the ballpark until 2016.
The design of the new park integrated the former Union Station building's main concourse, reutilizing the space for a clubhouse, cafe, team store, and office space. A large model train was also included within the park's design as an homage to the station.
In late 1997, it was announced that local Brown & Root would manage construction of the stadium, while Populous with Walter P. Moore would design it. The electrification of Minute Maid Park's retractable roof was developed by VAHLE, Inc.
Groundbreaking for The Ballpark at Union Station was on October 30, 1997. Its groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, Astros owner Drayton McLane, Harris County Judge Robert Eckles, Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, and Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Chairman Jack Rains.
Statues of longtime Astros players Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are located in the exterior of the ballpark in a space known as The Plaza at Minute Maid Park. The two former teammates are depicted playing baseball with each other. The plaza also displays pennants for all Astros division & league championships, plus a World Series title, as well as several plaques to commemorate notable Astros and their achievements.
The ballpark was first named "Enron Field" on April 7, 2000, with naming rights sold to the Houston energy and financial trading company in a 30-year, $100 million deal. However, Astros management faced a public relations problem when the energy corporation went bankrupt in 2001 due to a financial scandal. Quickly wanting to distance themselves from Enron, Astros ownership asked to prematurely end naming rights, but Enron refused. On February 5, 2002, Astros ownership filed a motion with the court overseeing the company's bankruptcy to force Enron to make an immediate decision on the matter. By February 27, the two entities agreed to end the naming rights, and settled with the Astros paying $2.1 million to Enron. Without a naming rights agreement in place, the ballpark became officially known as "Astros Field".
In June 2002, the Astros announced they had sold naming rights of the ballpark to locally based Coca-Cola subsidiary Minute Maid for $100 million over 30 years. Its official name was then changed to "Minute Maid Park".
During its days as Enron Field, it was also dubbed "Ten-Run" or "Home Run" Field due to its cozy left-field dimensions. In keeping with this theme while paying homage to its current sponsor, the nickname "The Juice Box" is colloquially used today. The dubbing of the park as an extreme hitter-friendly park has been called into question. The 2009 season saw the park ranked 24th out of 30 Major League parks in terms of runs scored in the park and ten other ballparks saw more home runs hit. The long center-field and left-center-field dimensions (before the 2016-17 renovations) neutralized the park, and Minute Maid's batting park factor is consistently very near average. However, in 2014, it was ranked the 12th-most batter-friendly ballpark.
In 2004, the Astros launched Wi-Fi throughout the ballpark, allowing fans to use the Internet while attending a game for a fee. In addition, the ballpark was the first major sports facility to use a separate video board exclusively for closed captioning for the hearing impaired of PA system and video board content, rather than appearing along the bottom of the main board.
In 2006, the Chick-fil-A cows were unveiled on the foul poles, saying EAT MOR FOWL, and the cows have Astros caps on. If an Astros player hits the pole, all fans in attendance get a coupon for a free chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A. Hunter Pence is the first and second Astros player to ever hit the left field "Fowl Pole" when he did it twice in the 2007 season. Ty Wigginton became the third Astro to hit the left field pole on September 16, 2007. Kazuo Matsui hit the right field foul pole on August 3, 2009, with a two-run homer in the sixth inning to beat the Giants. Carlos Lee hit the left field pole on July 28, 2010, giving the Astros an 8-1 win against the Cubs. Two days later, Jeff Keppinger hit the left field pole to help the Astros win, 5-0, against the Brewers.
After the 2008 season, the Astros' groundskeepers began installing 2.3 acres (9,300 m2) of a new turfgrass playing surface at Minute Maid Park. The Astros also became one of the first to use the new Chemgrass, later known as AstroTurf after its first well-publicized use at the Houston Astrodome in 1966.
In honor of longtime Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton, the City of Houston officially renamed a portion of the Ballpark District to the "Hall of Fame District", and the portion of Hamilton Avenue that runs within that district to "Milo Hamilton Way" on April 8, 2009.
For the 2011 season, the park added a large Daktronics HD screen nicknamed "El Grande" replacing the original one in right field. At 54 feet (16 m) high and 124 feet (38 m) wide, it is the fourth largest scoreboard in Major League Baseball, behind T-Mobile Park (home of the Seattle Mariners), Progressive Field (home of the Cleveland Indians), and Kaufmann Stadium (home of the Kansas City Royals). The old screen was taken out and replaced by billboards. Additionally, a smaller HD screen was added on the far left field wall. The ring of advertisement screens around the park were replaced in favor of HD ribbon boards.
After the Astros reverted to their original colors and logo in 2013, much of Minute Maid Park was repainted to navy and orange from brick red. Signs with the previous logo and colors were also replaced. More than 4,500 US gallons (17,000 l) of paint were used and over 1,000 signs were replaced.
In June 2015 the Astros announced Tal's Hill would be removed in a major renovation project during the 2015-2016 offseason, to be replaced with additional seating, concessions, and escalators for fans. This would result in center field dimensions of 436 feet (then the longest in MLB) being reduced to 409 feet. In addition, seating sections 256, 257, and 258 in the outfield mezzanine would be removed. However, the project had to be postponed due to the Astros' unexpected American League Wild Card championship and subsequent postseason appearance, along with the stadium's offseason event schedule. The renovation was completed during the 2016-2017 offseason. The flagpoles became out of play.
While primarily a baseball venue, Minute Maid Park can adequately host sports such as soccer and both codes of rugby. The venue can also play host to large-scale music concerts. It is not large enough to comfortably accommodate American football. However, the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium four blocks southeast on Texas Avenue for the MLS's Houston Dynamo in 2012 has effectively made its use for future soccer games moot.
Its debut as a soccer venue happened during the 2006 edition of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The stadium hosted the first leg of the quarterfinal between Portmore United of Jamaica (the "home" team) and Club América of Mexico.
|Date||Winning team||Result||Losing team||Tournament||Spectators|
|February 22, 2006||Club América||2-1||Portmore United||2006 CONCACAF Champions' Cup Quarterfinal||12,988|
|Date||Artist||Opening act(s)||Tour / concert name||Attendance||Revenue||Notes|
|April 21, 2007||Jimmy Buffett||Robert Earl Keen||Bama Breeze Tour||--||--||Sonny Landreth was a guest. Michael Utley was not at the show due to minor surgery. Mac McAnally filled in on keyboards.|
|November 16, 2008||Madonna||--||Sticky & Sweet Tour||41,498 / 41,498||$5,170,100|
|November 5, 2011||Taylor Swift||Needtobreathe
|Speak Now World Tour||42,095 / 42,095||$3,435,756||Nelly was the special guest.|
|November 14, 2012||Paul McCartney||DJ Chris||On the Run Tour||38,036 / 38,036||$4,478,038|
|July 18, 2014||Beyoncé
|--||On the Run Tour||40,103 / 40,103||$5,235,438|
|September 9, 2015||Taylor Swift||Vance Joy
|The 1989 World Tour||40,122 / 40,122||$5,202,196||Originally planned to take place on October 13, but was moved backwards to avoid any potential scheduling conflict with the Houston Astros potentially making the 2015 Major League Baseball postseason.Wiz Khalifa was the special guest.|
|June 15, 2018||The Eagles||Chris Stapleton||North American Tour 2018||--||--|
|November 3, 2018||Ed Sheeran||Snow Patrol
|÷ Tour||39,354 / 39,354||$3,985,595|
|May 22, 2020||Kenny Chesney||Florida Georgia Line
|August 1, 2020||Green Day
Fall Out Boy
|The Interrupters||Hella Mega Tour||TBA||TBA|
The nationally syndicated TV talk show Rachael Ray held a mass wedding at the park following Hurricane Ike for 40 couples who were unable to get married after a company they paid to hold the weddings went bankrupt. Comedian Jeffrey Ross served as best man for all 40 couples. The ceremony was aired as part of a special episode of the talk show on November 21, 2008.
The stadium also is the host of the Houston College Classic college baseball tournament, part of the winter fan festival held in February. The tournament features local schools the University of Houston and Rice University every year, a pair of major conference schools, alternating between Big 12 members University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, Baylor University and SEC member Texas A&M University, as well as two other teams from around the country.
Minute Maid Park hosted a cricket match on November 11, 2015, the second in a series of three Cricket All-Stars matches played by retired greats of the game.Shane Warne's Warne's Warriors clinched the series 2-0. Keeping with the naming conventions from the previous match at Minute Maid Park, the ends were named after Nolan Ryan and José Cruz, two players that have their numbers retired by the Astros.
From 2017 until 2020, the park will host the final rounds of the Houston leg of the FIRST Championship. To avoid damaging the field while the Astros were in season, the competition fields were built on a stage over the infield dirt between first and third base.
The largest entrance to the park is inside what was once Houston's Union Station, and the left-field side of the stadium features a railway as homage to the site's history. The train moves along an 800-foot (240 m) length of track on top of the length of the exterior wall beyond left field when the Astros take the field during the first inning, when an Astros player hits a home run, and when the Astros win a game. It is driven by Bobby Vásquez, who goes by the name Bobby Dynamite. The train is an upscaled replica of the General 4-4-0 and is pulled by a cable which is operated by the driver.  The engine's tender is filled with giant oranges in reference to Minute Maid's most famous product, orange juice. Upon a World Series win, as it did in 2017, Queen's We Are the Champions is played over the PA.
In dramatic contrast to the Astrodome, the most pitching-oriented stadium in Major League Baseball for most of its existence, Minute Maid Park is known[by whom?] for being particularly hitter-friendly down the lines, especially in left field where it is only 315 feet (96 m) to the Crawford Boxes, though the wall there is 19 feet (5.8 m) tall. In a challenge to home run hitters, former Astros owner Drayton McLane's office window, located in the old Union Station and directly above the Crawford Boxes, is made of glass and a sign below the window is marked 422 ft (135 m) from home plate.
There is a manually-operated out-of-town scoreboard in left, below the Crawford Boxes.
In contrast to the ease of hitting a home run to the Crawford Boxes, it was quite difficult to hit a ball out in center field, as the deep-center wall was 436 feet (133 m) from home plate and had held the top spot for active MLB ballparks for the deepest center field of any park in baseball. Fielding is a challenge there as well, due to the 90-foot (27 m) wide center field incline called Tal's Hill, for former team president Tal Smith, an element taken from Crosley Field and other historic ballparks, and the flagpole in play, an element taken from Yankee Stadium before its remodeling in the mid-'70s and Tiger Stadium among others. Milwaukee Brewers player Richie Sexson once hit a ball off the flagpole. There was a mark there until the 2011 season, when the pole was repainted. The hill and the flagpole were scheduled to be removed following the 2015 season, but remained in place due to an unexpected playoff run. The hill and flagpole remained in place until the end of the 2016 season.
The visiting team's bullpen is housed entirely in the exterior left field wall, next to the Crawford Boxes, making it one of the few bullpens in Major League ballparks to be completely indoors. Although windows in the outfield fence offer a view into and from the bullpen, its entrance is actually built into the side of the Crawford Boxes.
While Crosley Field's infamous left field terrace, which was half as steep (only 15°) as Tal's Hill (30°), was a natural feature of the site on which the park was located, Tal's Hill is purely decorative. Both features have been held in equal disdain by center fielders. This hill has caused some of the most replayed catches in recent baseball history, and plenty of controversy as well. Lance Berkman said, "If the ball rolls onto the hill, it's not steep enough to roll back, so you have to go get it. Then there's the chance of running into the flagpole that's on it and getting hurt." Fans started an online petition to remove the hill and flagpole, though the petition has since been discontinued. On June 4, 2015, the Astros announced that they would be removing Tal's Hill as part of a $15 million renovation for the 2016 season. The center field fence was to be moved in from 436 feet (133 m) (which from 2000 to 2016 was the longest in baseball) to 409 feet (125 m) from home plate, but the center field renovations were delayed until after the 2016 season, due at least in part to the 2015 playoffs cutting into planned construction time.
A concourse above Tal's Hill features the "Phillips 66 Home Run Porch" in left-center field that is over the field of play, and features a classic petrol pump that displays the total number of Astros home runs hit since the park opened.
The stadium can be fully air-conditioned when required.
Tal's Hill, also called "The Grassy Knoll", was a 90-foot (27 m)-wide-30 degree incline in the outfield at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, United States. It was created in 2000 when Enron Field (as Minute Maid Park was named at the time) opened with a flagpole on it. In 2016, Tal's Hill was leveled in order for the Houston Astros to add a new seating area to center field in place of the hill. It was named after former Astros President Tal Smith who proposed its inclusion.
In 1996, when the Astros were designing a new stadium during a meeting at the Astrodome, owner Drayton McLane asked "What can we do to make this ballpark special?" Tal Smith responded by suggesting a hill and a pole in center field similar to the Cincinnati Reds' Crosley Field. The project became known as "Tal's Hill" when architects Populous made designs to facilitate the inclusion of the hill.
Some players nicknamed it "The Grassy Knoll". The first catch made on Tal's Hill was made by the Atlanta Braves' Andruw Jones in 2000 after he had fallen over running up the hill on the previous play. Catches on the Hill were viewed to be some of the toughest to make and a number of players fell over on it or ran into the pole.Lance Berkman once said about it: "If the ball rolls onto the hill, it's not steep enough to roll back, so you have to go get it, then there's the chance of running into the flagpole that's on it and getting hurt."
In 2015, the Houston Astros announced that Tal's Hill would be removed as part of an organizational evaluation requested by owner Jim Crane. It was to be replaced with a new seating area and concession stands. The removal was scheduled for the end of the 2015 Major League Baseball season; however, the Astros reached the postseason, which delayed the work until after the 2016 season. The groundbreaking on removal took place on October 10, 2016. The removal of Tal's Hill was viewed as an example of variations in MLB ballparks being removed for financial gain and also in the pursuit of uniformity in MLB ballpark playing fields.
Under the Minute Maid Park ground rules, both Tal's Hill and the flagpole were considered in play. If a ball hit the flagpole on the hill and stayed in the field of play, it was in play. If it went out of the field of play (over the fence), it was a home run. The Hill was criticized numerous times owing to the incline having the potential to cause injury to fielders unused to it. However, there was never an injury to any player in relation to Tal's Hill.
Minute Maid Park is located in Downtown Houston in a centralized area of the city, and accessible via a short driving distance on Interstate 10 (Katy Freeway/East Freeway), Interstate 69 (Southwest Freeway/Eastex Freeway), and Interstate 45 (Gulf Freeway/North Freeway). Street parking, garage parking, and private lot parking are available, with an estimated 25,000 spots within walking distance to the ballpark. Taxi cabs and pedicabs are also commonly found near the surrounding ballpark area.
Public transportation allows for accessibility via bus or light rail service. The METRORail light rail system has a station located one block south of Minute Maid Park, Convention District Station, served by the Green and Purple lines. The Red Line also serves the ballpark at Preston Station, six blocks to the west.
In 2017, the park and the entire city suffered from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded many parts of the city with several feet of rain over four days. The Astros reported that despite water entering into the service levels of the stadium, Minute Maid Park remained in "good condition" when the storm cleared out. The lingering effects of Harvey forced the Astros to move their series against the Texas Rangers to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Astros returned to Houston on Friday, September 1 to help the initial recovery efforts. Minute Maid Park hosted the city's first post-Harvey sporting event, and the park's first double-header the next day in an interleague game against the New York Mets.