Houston, also known as Space City, is one of the United States' largest, most metropolitan cities, and is home to four major league franchises, the oldest being Major League Baseball's Houston Astros. The team's former home, the legendary Houston Astrodome, was known worldwide as "the 8th wonder of the world," but as the 20th century began to wind down, a new home was sought for the 'Stros.
In 2000 that home was unveiled, and was renamed Minute Maid Park in 2002. Affectionately known among fans as "The Juice Box," Minute Maid Park is a hitter's paradise, and a true must visit for any baseball fan. Built on the former site of Houston's Union Station train depot in the middle of downtown, Minute Maid Park combines the old world aesthetics that are a hallmark of baseball with all the modern bells and whistles of 21st century sports entertainment.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Like all of the great "new" ballparks in Major League Baseball, Minute Maid Park has really stepped up their food offering beyond the traditional hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks. There is plenty to eat and drink at Minute Maid and you don't have to go far to find something for everyone's tastes.
The ballpark does a really nice job incorporating the flavors of the city and of Texas into the menu. Tex-Mex and barbecue options abound throughout the park, both in the regular stands and in freestanding kiosks. You will also find signature Texas staples such as Blue Bell Ice Cream ($6.95 for a two-scoop souvenir mini batting helmet), Minute Maid frozen treats, and Nolan Ryan Beef products (including regular and foot-long hot dogs).
Additional highlights include the fare offered at the Street Eats stands on the main level and upper concourse level. First, celebrity "eater" and chef Andrew Zimmern offers his take on a street sandwich with the Korean Pork Belly Sandwich, made with fried pork belly, grilled pineapple, scallion butter, Korean gochujang (a spicy condiment), and a potato bun - sweet, savory, spicy, crispy, and rich all in one handheld treat. Street Eats also offers the Chicken Waffle Cone, a hand-held take on the soul food classic. Here, fried chicken bites and mashed potatoes fill a sweet waffle cone, and the entire dish is drizzled with honey mustard; it must be seen to be believed. Both of these items are unique crowd favorites. Street Eats also sells Mexican street tacos (three to an order), which are excellent. These items range from $9 up to $18 for combos, which include a souvenir cup and drink.
For those thirsty for adult beverages, look no further than left center field, in the remnants of the old train depot. Here, the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewery in the state of Texas, has set up a pub for fans to sample all of their finest beers. These go above and beyond, in many cases, your typical ballpark beers.
While Minute Maid Park is no longer "brand new," it still retains the look and feel of a ballpark that has only recently opened. The openness of the design (which was created by famed sports venue architects HOK), the incorporation of the former architecture, the proximity to Houston's vibrant downtown area, and a slew of recent upgrades to the park all add to the overwhelming "fun" atmosphere. The Crawford Box seats above the left field wall (named for the street that fronts the park) are a particularly desirous spot to catch the action.
During the past few off seasons, the Astros have conducted several upgrades to Minute Maid Park. In 2013, the Diamond Club area (a private lounge in the park's suite level that offers a four-star dining experience inspired by Houston celebrity chef Bryan Caswell) was completely renovated. The main concourse area was also renovated to feature new concessions and a new look in 2014, and last season in 2015 the Mazda Club level was also redesigned.
To accommodate today's tech savvy fans, Wi-Fi was recently upgraded throughout the stadium, and there are numerous opportunities throughout to engage the Astros via social media sites, including Instagram-able photo ops along all the walls at every level. Another great feature for young fans is the Minute Maid Squeeze Play area on the main concourse level. This fully enclosed play area incorporates many of the features of the park and the ball club.
One of the most fascinating and engaging aspects of Minute Maid Park is the retractable roof. The roof can be opened and closed in 14-20 minutes and it is still quite an awesome sight to behold.
Minute Maid Park is located right in the heart of Houston's vibrant downtown. It lies in the heart of the city's thriving financial center, and close to Houston's museum and historic warehouse districts. It is also located across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center, which adds to the energy and buzz that permeate the park.
Being in the middle of downtown offers fans a wealth of opportunities for dining and entertainment both before and after the game. As an example, directly across the street from the main entrance to Minute Maid Park is the Home Plate Bar & Grill. However, that is by no means your only option. There are dozens of options available to fans and attendees, many of which are within reasonable walking distance, or are within a 10 minute drive of the stadium.
Parking is ample and in line with the current "standards" of the major professional sports leagues; you can expect to pay between $20 and $30, but public transport is also available. One caveat, however, is that this is Houston, and Minute Maid Park is located in one of its busiest areas. You can expect steady traffic on game days.
As the old adage goes, the rising tide lifts all boats. This is especially true of sports and their fans. After many years of frustration, the Astros franchise began to achieve success in the 1980s and have been consistently good to great ever since. There were some down/rebuilding years at the start of the 2010s, but good management and shrewd talent development have the fans raucous with excitement. It's a great time to be an Astros fan these days, and that is felt all throughout the stadium.
Sections 105 and 106 are home to Keuchel's Korner, a fan section dedicated to Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. Tickets in this section include a signature Keuchel beard giveaway and an exclusive Keuchel's Korner T-shirt.
Being centrally located in Houston's downtown is a great advantage for game attendees. Minute Maid Park is easily accessible off of three major highways/interstates. This helps a lot when leaving the ballpark as traffic has several options in terms of where to go.
Because of its location, there are several easy options in terms of public transportation. Houston's Metro Rail System is a great way to avoid traffic and parking fees. There is also a taxi stand located one block south of Minute Maid Park. The Houston Metro system also offers buses and trolleys that are available in the vicinity of Minute Maid Park.
One of the great benefits of having 81 home games a season for fans is that MLB tickets can generally be purchased inexpensively. Single game tickets for the Astros can be bought, on most occasions, for as low as $8 per person.
If you are going to drive and park, that cost is very much in line with what is going on in the rest of the sports world. Food and drink options abound and you can eat and drink your fill on a very modest budget.
The real ROI when it comes to Minute Maid Park is the overall experience. This is truly a gorgeous venue for baseball; the sight lines are all wonderful, the food is first-class, the atmosphere is exciting, and there is just something special about seeing a baseball game played on real grass at a retro/modern ballpark. You will get your money's worth in Houston.
One of the best features that the Astros roll out every single game is their full size locomotive engine and container car in left center field. The train makes the run across a short track each and every time an Astro clubs a dinger, and is a fun sight for fans of all ages.
Another great bonus is the Astros long-time mascot, Orbit. Described as everyone's favorite alien, this little green man is a real crowd pleaser. He has become one of the most popular mascots in MLB, and can be found at every home game interacting with fans and players on the field.
There are also lots of unique vantage points in the park to catch the action. Home Run Alley, near the famed hill in center field, features the Conoco Home Run Porch. Complete with a "gas pump" that keeps track of Astros home runs, this standing room area sees lots of game-time action in this hitter-friendly ballpark.
Minute Maid Park also has an excellent fan shop inside the stadium (though it can be accessed from the outside on non-game days). All manner of Astros paraphernalia is for sale; you can even order customized merchandise right there onsite.
Though closing in on two decades of existence, Minute Maid Park still looks and feels brand new. It mixes the retro look that reflects baseball's golden age with all the technology, comfort, and convenience of the 21st century.
You would be hard pressed to find a nicer ballpark to see a game than Minute Maid Park. Do yourself a favor, if you are in Space City during the season, stop in and catch a game - you won't be disappointed.
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.
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.
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