The year 2000 saw something the grand old game of baseball had not experienced since 1964 - a Major League team in Houston playing on natural grass outdoors. While clear skies and real grass were welcome additions for fans, Bayou City hardball faithful also enjoyed another first in Minute Maid Park's 242-foot high, retractable roof. Fans approved the new ballpark overwhelmingly, resulting in a record of more than 3,000,000 fans through the Minute Maid Park turnstiles in the 2000 season.
A jewel in the crown of the majestic downtown Houston skyline, Minute Maid Park has become a welcome home for the Houston Astros and has ushered in a new era of Major League sports in the city. The downtown ballpark continues the proud tradition of visionary innovation in stadium construction, beginning with the club's previous home - the Astrodome. Minute Maid Park's retractable roof technology brought open-air baseball to Houston for the first time in 35 years, and the natural grass surface and classic architecture provided Minute Maid Park the atmosphere of the great ballparks of baseball's Golden age.
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Minute Maid Park is located at 501 Crawford Street on the northeast end of downtown Houston. Situated near the George R. Brown Convention Center, the ballpark is located one block west of U.S. 59 and is bounded by Congress Avenue on the north, Texas Avenue on the South, Crawford Street on the west and Hamilton Street on the east.
HOK Sports Facilities Group. Construction Manager: Brown & Root Services, a business unit of Halliburton Company.
The idea for a public-private financing drive for a downtown Houston ballpark was conceived in 1996. Fourteen leading Houston companies joined together to form the Houston Sports Facility Partnership. The Partnership agreed to provide a $35 million interest-free loan with no repayment due until 10 years of ballpark operation. With the Partnership's initial commitment, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority had the support it needed to present a ballpark proposal to the public in November 1996. Voters approved the $250 million project.
According to HOK's design platform, the most literal tie between Houston's past and its new ballpark is a physical line to Union Station. The building is a symbol of the important role the railroad has played in the city's relatively short history, especially early in the 20th century. The director of Minute Maid Park's identity and graphics takes its cue from this period.
The railroad created Houston. Flourishing trade established a base of wealth and culture, an infrastructure of banks, a port and railheads. By 1910, railroads constituted the city's largest industry. In 1911, Union Station - already key to the rail industry's growth and influence - was redesigned and reopened.
Built at a cost of $500,000 at the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford Street, Union Station was dedicated on March 2, 1911. It has been estimated that between 7,000-10,000 Houstonians passed through its front doors at the 45-foot-high lobby, which included three varieties of polished marble. By the mid-1940's, Union Station was handling 5,000 travelers daily on 36 passenger trains.
Union Station's lobby features The Shed, the Official Astros Team Store and a café. Walk-up or booked Minute Maid Park tours, offered year-round, also begin in the Union Station lobby.
The second and third floors comprise the AT&T Conference Center, open 365 days a year and providing a wide array of meeting rooms that can provide businesses and organizations with state-of-the-art facilities. Nestled in different areas of the ballpark are additional meeting rooms and areas that provide the perfect atmosphere for a meeting or luncheon.
The Houston Astros executive offices comprise the fourth and fifth floors. The sixth floor features the Roof Deck and Club House at Union Station, where private groups of up to 100 can enjoy the game an incredible view of the Houston skyline.
The Houston Astros and New York Yankees played an exhibition game on March 30, 2000, with Houston winning 6-5. The Astros hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in the first official regular-season game on April 7, 2000, with Philadelphia winning 4-1.
On June 5, 2002, the Houston Astros and The Minute Maid Company announced that they had expanded their relationship to create a long-term marketing and community partnership. The multi-year partnership agreement included naming rights for the downtown ballpark, rechristening the field "Minute Maid Park."
The partnership agreement also stipulated that the popular Minute Maid Squeeze Play attraction at the ballpark will continue for the length of the 28-year agreement, along with pouring rights for products of The Coca-Cola Company, ongoing advertising and marketing programs, and a commitment by Minute Maid to support youth baseball programs in the Houston area.
Houston's downtown ballpark was originally named Enron Field on April 7, 1999, and was renamed Astros Field on February 27, 2002, by agreement of the Houston Astros and Enron Corp.
The Minute Maid Company is an operating unit of The Coca-Cola Company and the flagship of its worldwide fruit beverage business. The Minute Maid Company has been headquartered in Houston since 1967.
A replica of a 19th century locomotive (circa 1860) and linked coal tender became a fast fan favorite in the inaugural season. The train provides an architectural icon which combines sight, sound and motion for a dynamic entertainment and celebration feature. It also proves a link to the past for Houston and the Union Station site. The train was designed by Uni-systems and built by SMI & Hydraulics, which also provided the transporters for the retractable roof. Weighing close to 50,000 pounds, the train runs along some 800 feet along the low roof track on the west side of the ballpark.
Architects from the HOK Sports Facilities Group recommended early on that a retractable roof would be appropriate for the Texas climate. Since building the first retractable-roof ballpark - the Skydome in 1989 - designers have crafted several kinds of retractable roofs. Some, for instance, open only over a Small central section. The roof at Minute Maid Park, however, retracts completely off the ballpark to reveal the largest open area of any retractable roofed baseball stadium in existence today. A total of 50,000 square feet of glass in the west wall of the retractable roof give fans a view of the Houston skyline, even when the roof is in the closed position.
Uni-systems provided the technical expertise to design the best roof structure for Minute Maid Park. Mechanized roof panels open and close in 12-20 minutes. The roof moves back and forth an estimated 160 times a year, a distance of 14.6 miles. To cover the ballpark, steel panels roll in sequence along tracks on the east and west sides of the stadium. When the roof is open, the southern and northern panels, each of which measures 537 by 120 feet and weighs 1,905 metric tons, rest at the north end below the large middle section with its dimension of 589 by 242 feet and a weight of 3,810 metric tons. Designers determined the roof's shape - lower side panels flanking the high center panel - by tracking a batted baseball's hyperbolic flight path.
Forged steel wheels measuring 35 inches in diameter transport the three roof panels. Each of the 140 wheels has its own braking mechanics and 60 are equipped with electric motors.
If the track is slightly out of alignment, all the weight of a roof panel could come to rest on one wheel, causing severe structural damage. To prevent this, a polyurethane suspension pad that acts as a spring is attached above each wheel to distribute the roof's weight. The low track/high track configuration and the roof's built-in glass wall not only offer valuable efficiency, but afford a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape unlike any other roofed ballpark.
A total of 400 speaker cabinets are scattered throughout the seating areas and almost 1,000 are found along the concourses. The speakers are distributed throughout the ballpark to have cabinets as close to the fans as possible.
In less than one year from its opening, Minute Maid Park won three major awards:
Greater Houston Preservation Alliance,
2000 Good Brick Award
Presented to owner Drayton McLane, the Astros and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority for the renovation of the 1911 Union Station building in recognition of leadership and excellence in historic preservation.
Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Project
From the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the professional organization representing the vast majority of civil engineers.
National Honor Award for Engineering Excellence
From the American Consulting Engineers Coucil (ACEC), stamping Minute Maid Park as one of the Top 24 engineering projects among all buildings and civil works projects nationally.
With visually redirected seats and baseball-only sightlines, Astros fans are as close to the action as any in big league baseball. Seats along the right and left field foul lines are only five feet from the line, while the nearest spectator along the first and third base lines can be as close as 43 feet to the game.
The overall seating capacity of Minute Maid Park is 40,963, featuring nine different seating areas: Dugout Boxes, Field Boxes, Crawford Boxes, Bullpen Boxes, Club Tier I, Club Tier II, Terrace Deck, Mezzanine, and Upper Deck. Each of the ballpark's four levels - Main Concourse, Club Level, Suite Level, and Upper Concourse - afford fans a uniquely different perspective.
Minute Maid Park's seats are a deep green to match the retro look and design of the ballpark.
Fans sampling the various Minute Maid Park ticket options will find the following at Houston's new ballpark: seats on top of the action, various one-of-a-kind amenities like the Minute Maid Squeeze Play, the patio in center field, and panoramic views of the ballpark and spectacular views of the downtown Houston skyline.
One of the most popular seating areas are the Crawford Boxes, located in left field. This area provides fans with a unique perspective of what it is like to be a Major League outfielder.
The Diamond Club, Club Level and Suites provide the ultimate in entertaining areas, while groups can take advantage of special mezzanine seating and "The Champions" party room. "Home Run Alley" is a 810-foot long fan arcade, including the fan-favorite "Conoco Home Run Porch" in left-center field that is actually over the field of play, and features a classic gasoline pump to keep track of the number of Astros home runs that are hit.
The Astros' Suites, located between the Club Level and Terrace Deck, provide the ultimate in luxury and comfort for watching Major League Baseball. Beautifully appointed with a bar/buffet, socializing area and closed-circuit TVs, the suites offer privacy and comfort for personal and business entertainment. Sliding glass doors open to stadium chairs that are designed to seat guests in two rows.
The Insperity Club is Minute Maid Park’s newest premium seating area featuring a premier vantage point directly behind home plate. Guests enjoy the batter’s view of the action and an all-inclusive, first-class experience.
Inside the ballpark, there is a restaurant located in center field which offers inside or outdoor seating options for fans seeking fine dining. The "Minute Maid Squeeze Play" area along the right field line provides children with a fun, safe, interactive experience. The "Conoco Home Plate Tower" along Texas Avenue is a popular gathering point for fans, and it also features a carillon to provide music at appropriate times of the day.