Minute Maid Park
Since its opening, Minute Maid Park, has become one of baseballs
"crown jewels." In 1995, with the threat of the Astros moving to
northern Virginia, a new ballpark had to be built in order to keep the
team in Houston. In November 1996, voters approved a referendum to
construct a new ballpark in downtown Houston. After three decades of
playing in the Astrodome, the Astros would get a new home.
Built on a 25 acre
site in downtown Houston, construction began on October 30, 1997. It
would feature a retractable roof and natural grass. The stadium's site
was greatly influenced by its surrounding neighborhood. The ballpark
was constructed with concrete and steel structures, and the facade
consist of brick and limestone. A 1911-vintage Union Station forms the
ballpark's main entrance. A retractable roof was necessary for the
ballpark to keep the summer heat out, and to keep fans cool. The
retractable roof is built of three panels, which can open or close in
20 minutes. As part of a 30 year/$100 million deal the ballpark was
originally known as Enron Field.
Over 40,950 people packed the ballpark on Opening Day, April 7,
2000. Three levels of green seats extend from the left field foul pole
to home plate and around to the right field foul pole. Two levels of
seats are located beyond the right field fence. A 131 foot wide
scoreboard is located above these seats. Over 2,500 seats, called the
Crawford Boxes jut out into the field in left field, making the
distance to it just 315 feet.
Along with views of downtown Houston, a
57-foot, 24-ton full-size replica of a 19th-century Wild West steam
locomotive runs on an 800-foot track located above left field. Along
with the train, Minute Maid Park has many other attractions. Tal's
Hill, a 20 degree angled hill is located in dead centerfield,
measuring 90 feet at its widest point, and curving around 100 feet of
outfield fence. A flagpole is also near Talís Hill, and is in play. A
clock tower located outside Minute Maid Park, serves as a meeting
place for fans. Banners from Astros championships are hung from the
archways along the Conoco Home Run Alley behind left and center field.
Fans can buy Astros merchandise at The Shed, the Astros' official gift
shop at Union Station. Also fans can buy original oil paintings,
lithographs, bronze sculptures and other unique memorabilia at the
Gallery at Minute Maid Park.
Since its opening in 2000, the ballpark
has had several different names. The ballpark was known as Enron Field
for its first two season of existence. After Enron filed for
bankruptcy, the Astros decided to buy back the naming rights to the
ballpark for $2.1 million. For the first part of the 2002 season, the
ballpark was known as Astros Field. In June 2002, a deal with The
Minute Maid Company was reached. The 28-year naming rights agreement
is worth in excess of $100 million. The ballpark is now known as
Minute Maid Park.