The Houston Astros franchise began play in 1962 with the Colt .45’s name. They played at Colt Stadium which was just south of the Astrodome and where Reliant Stadium is today. They changed their name to the Astros in 1965 which coincided with the opening of the Houston Astrodome. The Astrodome is famous for being the first domed stadium in professional sports. As years went by, the Astrodome became antiquated and there was a need for a new stadium. There were threats of moving the Astros to Northern Virginia in the 1990’s if a stadium deal didn’t come through. Not wanting to lose the Astros after the Oilers bolted, a deal was made for a downtown park.
Minute Maid Park offers a flexibility not found in the Astrodome. It is a retractable-roof stadium that can be opened or closed within a 15-minute period, depending on the weather. The ability to open and close the roof allows the use of real grass, not the much-maligned AstroTurf, which caused odd bounces and many turf burns for the players over the years. A wall of glass shows off the downtown Houston skyline and does not give the tomb-like feel of the Astrodome. Texans are very proud of their history, and Minute Maid Park uniquely incorporates this history into its design. There are many entrances into the field, but none as grand as the one through the Union Station lobby, built in 1911. Its soaring ceiling and fine architectural style make it a one of a kind entryway to an athletic facility. This salute to the building’s heritage is carried out further by a steam engine atop the left field wall, which runs down the tracks carrying Minute Maid oranges -- of course -- after an Astros victory or home run.
Houston has had a long history of good players playing there but not many winning teams. They have had nine playoff appearances in their history but only one pennant, in 2005. Houston went through a painful rebuilding era earlier this decade. Patience is starting to be rewarded as their minor league system is great and many of those players are helping Houston turn the corner.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
You will need to bring a Texas-sized appetite and billfold to Minute Maid Park, as the portions are huge. Remember you are in the Southwest, as there are a number of locally-based Tex-Mex offerings, barbecue stands galore, as well as your usual baseball fare.
Nolan Ryan's beef burgers, steak sandwiches, and hot dogs are sold here. You can't go wrong in Texas having Nolan Ryan's name attached to a product. Other ballpark fare that you would expect to see here is plentiful.
Two new items for the 2015 season are the brisket curly fries and the chicken and waffle cone. These can be found at the Street Eats stand on the lower concourse. The waffle cone was very tasty. The potatoes did seem a bit dry and perhaps a drizzle of gravy inside might have made it better. The mustard and chicken are top notch and is highly recommended. Little Bigs is open by section 109 and features various sliders with a side of chips.
Coke products are sold at the park and run between $5.25 and $11. A few stands on the lower level had machines set up where fans could access them. The worker handed me a cup when I paid for a drink and I was able to pour the drink myself. Beers run from $5.25 for a small to $11 for a premium 24oz can. There are several places to get a craft beer inside the stadium. St. Arnold's beer seems popular here.
I would recommend trying the chicken and waffle cone. A nice meal in a tidy package, literally. If looking to save some money, Minute Maid Park allows food to be brought in, as long as it is in a clear one-gallon bag.
The Astros organization does a good job with keeping fans entertained throughout the game. Besides the game itself, there are plenty of things to do and see here.
There is a park for kids along the first baseline called Squeeze Play Park. There are games and playground activities for young kids. I like that it is cordoned off from the rest of the stadium so traffic still flows nicely around the concourse.
Minute Maid Park has a unique feature in Tal's Hill. This hill is an uphill slope in center field with a flag pole in play. It will be going away after the 2015 season, however, to add more premium seating.
Home Run alley in left field is a great place to catch home runs during the game or in batting practice. Heads up while walking through that area behind those seats as home run balls have been known to go on the concourse during batting practice.
There is a train that runs along the left center wall in the stadium. The train has a car full of plastic oranges and looks nice in-person. The train moves up and down the tracks after an Astros home run. The driver also pumps the crowd up during rallies.
The Astros mascot, Orbit, is probably the most entertaining mascot I've seen in the majors. Orbit does a good job working the crowd during the game as well as doing things on the field. On this day, Orbit brought a laundry basket on the field full of shirts and socks. A routine was done where an opposing player grabbed the basket and dumped the contents out. It was fun to see this give and take between Orbit and the opposing player.
On Fridays, fans can get their haircut with a five dollar donation. Some stadiums and arenas do this but you are far from the action. Here, you can get a haircut in full view of the game.
Deep in the heart of Texas is played after the 7th inning stretch and fans get into it by singing, clapping, and dancing at the appropriate times.
Bob Ford, Astros PA announcer in my view is the best in the majors. He is clear, concise and does not talk over music between innings like a lot of public address announcers do.
Most seating areas at Minute Maid Park offer great views of the game. The only seats I would avoid are the upper deck seats in right field. You won't have a view of the scoreboard by sitting here.
One thing of note, one of the two games I saw here this year had heavy rain outside. In one respect, fans can be thankful that there is a roof here. However, water was coming into the stadium through the windows in left center field. Not enough to drench fans but it was definitely noticeable. The wall in left center was pretty damp with all the water coming in.
Like many downtown ballparks, the neighborhood surrounding it can vary greatly. On the positive side there are some very nice hotels, such as the Westin literally across the street from the stadium. There are also some great sports bars such as the Home Plate Bar and Grill, located in the vicinity. BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the MLS Houston Dynamos, is also located a few blocks away. On the flip side, other neighbors to the stadium include the Texas Pardons and Paroles offices, numerous bail bonds outlets and a Salvation Army Center. Downtown Houston seems quiet at night without much activity by the end of a night game.
The Flying Saucer Draft Emporium is a short walk to the stadium. This place has great food and tons of craft beer on tap.
When in Houston, a trip to the space center is a must. If staying for a weekend, take the 45-60 minute drive down to the Gulf of Mexico for some beach time in the sun.
As mentioned above, there is a Westin hotel right outside the main entrance of Minute Maid Park. There are quite a few hotels downtown that are within walking distance. The downtown area is pretty quiet at night. Some cheaper hotels can be found a little further out. Southwest Freeway off of US 59 has plenty of options. The Houston Galleria Mall area has a lot of options as well and is close to the largest mall in Texas.
Astros fans haven't had much to cheer about in the past few years. 100 loss seasons will certainly take a toll on fans. The crowds have been coming back in 2015 as some games have been tough tickets if there is a good giveaway. Houston fans support their teams and like winners. The Astros seem to be in a winning position now. The fans here cheer at the proper times and respond well to great plays on the field.
As mentioned earlier, the seventh inning stretch is very popular here with Deep in the Heart of Texas played.
Houston has a well-earned reputation as one of the most congested cities in the U.S. Minute Maid Park is basically accessible only by city streets, many of which are one-way or presently have construction blocking several lanes. Parking is easy to come by and will run anywhere between $10-$15 dollars. If you park a little further out, parking can go for 5 dollars. Most of this is due to business centers having excess space after working hours or on weekends.
The Metrorail expansion near Minute Maid Park is completed and includes a stop near the stadium. There are three lines in the Houston metro area. Check www.ridemetro.org for details.
All MLB stadiums now use metal detectors at entry gates. Fans have little trouble getting through in a timely manner here. Security is plentiful and let people know if something can't be taken in before your turn here.
The concourses here are easy to navigate. The concession lines along main points are roped off meaning fans have to follow the ropes in an orderly fashion. The lines don't extend out to the concourse as much here and that's a good thing. One thing I noticed, the concrete here seemed a tad dirty for a stadium that is still somewhat new.
The bathrooms were spacious and there aren't many lines due to the number of stalls. Some of the stall doors need to be looked at, I had two on my trip that wouldn't lock.
Minute Maid Park is a beautiful, unique place to play baseball .The team seems to be dedicated to keeping the ticket prices affordable and offer numerous buy one get one free or half-price promotions. In addition, they offer discounted rates for students with good grades and many of the civic organizations in town. The Astros have a very admirable program of providing free tickets to wounded warriors and their families. If you are simply visiting Houston and "don't have a dog in the hunt," a visit to Minute Maid Park is well worth a visit for an enjoyable, comfortable evening of baseball.
One freebie that is becoming commonplace is the designated driver soda. Houston does this and it's good for a 20oz fountain soda. The in game entertainment is worth a couple bonus points. It is among the best in the majors. The staff here is very friendly and helpful.
The Houston Astros franchise is on the rise with lots of young talent coming of age. The stadium has aged a little but is still a great place to watch a game.
The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. The Astros have been calling Houston home since 1962. Originally known as the Colt .45s in 1962, then after the .45s moved to the world's first multi-purpose dome (Astrodome) they became the Astros. In 2000, the Astros made another move to their current home of Minute Maid Park, located in downtown Houston. Minute Maid Park, like its predecessor, was one of the first of its kind being one of the first retractable-roofed stadiums. This was definitely a great idea as fans are protected from Houston's notoriously humid weather, but also allows fans to enjoy outdoor baseball during favorable weather. Minute Maid Park has the capacity to seat just under 41,000 people.
Minute Maid Park is definitely a one of a kind venue. 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 train as homage to the site's history.
The train moves along a track on top of the length of the exterior wall beyond left field whenever an Astros player hits a home run, or when the Astros win a game. The engine's tender, traditionally used to carry coal, but is usually filled with giant oranges in tribute to Minute Maid's most famous product, orange juice.
The playing field also has a lot of neat nooks and crannies to it from the short porch in left known as the Crawford Boxes to Tal's Hill in center. Another cool feature you will see at Minute Maid is a concourse above Tal's Hill which features the "Conoco Home Run Porch" in left-center field that is actually over the field of play, and features a classic gasoline pump that displays the total number of Astros home runs hit since the park opened.
For fans that have attended Minute Maid in the past but not in 2011, new for the 2011 season is a large HD screen nicknamed "El Grande" replacing the original one in center field. At 54 feet high and 124 feet wide, it is the second largest scoreboard in Major League Baseball, behind Kauffman Stadium. The old screen was taken out and replaced by billboards. Additionally they added a smaller HD screen on the far left field wall. The ring of advertisement screens around the park have also been replaced in favor of HD ribbon boards in 2011.
Upon stepping off the Houston Light Rail train, an excitement came about that I hadn't foreseen with attending a baseball game; this was going to be a good experience.
Attending an Astros game at Minute Maid Park is a must for all that come to visit Houston. The rich history of the Astros' organization as well as the family friendly atmosphere and excellent location speak volumes to what Houston provides to visitors and locals alike.
Just northeast of what was formally the old Union Station, Minute Maid Park brings a combination of old-school railroad memories in with modern day fan appeal, bars, restaurants and other entertainment alternatives.
The first time I made it to Minute Maid Park, the roof was closed and I left unimpressed. It's a whole new experience when the roof is open. Great food, and a lot of fun singing Deep in the Heart of Texas in the 7th.
There are some good options outside of the stadium, and a beautiful park. I also love the quirks of the park, including the strange walls and centerfield hill.
I love the downtown location. The park has good proximity to bars & restaurants and is a walkable destination if you're downtown - a huge plus. Take driving & parking out of the equation of getting to a ballpark, and I'm infinitely happier. The park itself is new retro - I love the window in left, and the double decks in right. I fucking detest the ridiculous homage to old Tigers stadium in center field. Stupid gimmicks are for in between innings at minor league parks, not for major league fields. If I could give a negative star, I would.
Food - You have to try to BBQ brisket topped baked potato. One of the best stadium fare item I've ever had.
Atmosphere - Minute Maid Park is a beautiful stadium and relatively new. Though not much history, the park has hosted Astro greats like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt. Add in a World Series run which included Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
Neighborhood - Plenty to do within walking distance of Minute Maid. Houston's downtown area leaves much to be desired compared to some other major city downtowns, but there are enough bars and restaurants to keep the party going.
Fans - Astro fans haven't had much to cheer for lately. Since the World Series run, the team has basically been stripped of any recognizable stars which has led to some of the lowest attendance numbers. When the Astros are winning, the fans are great, but when they aren't, there aren't enough hard-core fans to keep the stands filled.
Access - Minute Maid is in downtown Houston, which can make access an issue on weeknights and even some weekends. Parking can get pricey around the stadium and can also fill pretty quick. Bathrooms are clean and available.
Extra - BBQ Brisket Baked Potato.....delicious.
I'm glad I went when the Astros were competitive or else it probably wouldn't have been as high as I am making it to be.
I've been to a few of the "new" parks and this takes the taco as the worst one. I'll start off with why. Prices were bad all around and inconsistent. One place had a jumbo hot dog for $3.50 and you put it in another spot in the stadium it is about $6.50. Souvenir prices were higher for even most baseball stadiums. The sightlines are atrocious for a park. Anything in RF is a mess whether or not you have the overhang or the underhang. The lines also didn't work either. The food got me sick (a BBQ loaded potato) and what I did have that didn't get me sick wasn't overly tasty (I added an extra pont because of the variety the place has). Bathrooms were cramped and it took forever getting into them. As for the stadium "look," I never really felt like I was at a ballpark but more of an enlarged field.
But besides that, the Astros, who were chasing St. Louis for the division, had/have great fans. They were into the game, even when they were blown out or it was a close one. They were incredibly supportive and incredibly friendly.
But besides that, a very disappointing experience.
The Houston Astros have played in only three stadiums since their inception in 1962; the late and lamented Colt .45 Field, which was plagued by oppressive Texas heat and occasional rattlesnake visits on the field, to the first domed stadium in the world, the Astrodome, to their present home in downtown Houston, Minute Maid Park . The park opened in 2000 and was known as Enron Field, and after the ensuing scandal was renamed Minute Maid Park as a part of a 28-year marketing agreement with the beverage company.
Minute Maid Park offers a flexibility not found in the Astrodome. It is a retractable-roof stadium that can be opened or closed within a 15-minute period, depending on the weather. The ability to open and close the roof allows the use of real grass, not the much-maligned AstroTurf, which caused odd bounces and many turf burns for the players over the years. A wall of glass shows off the downtown Houston skyline and does not give the tomb-like feel of the Astrodome. Texans are very proud of their history, and Minute Maid Park uniquely incorporates this history into its design. There are many entrances into the field, but none as grand as the one through the Union Station lobby, built in 1911. Its soaring ceiling and fine architectural style make it a one of a kind entryway to an athletic facility. This salute to the building’s heritage is carried out further by a steam engine atop the left field wall, which runs down the tracks carrying Minute Maid oranges -- of course -- after an Astro victory or home run.
1800 Texas Street
Houston, TX 77003
1510 Texas Ave
Houston, TX 77002
800 Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002