Minute Maid is a ballpark that shines more in person than it does on television. Having watched a lot of telecasts of Brewers games at Houston, I assumed a lot of Minute Maid’s most visible features were somewhat cartoon-like… the hill in center field, the Crawford Boxes in left field that make pop-ups potential home runs, the train running across the top of the outfield. Now that I’ve been there, I think differently – Minute Maid is just a really nice ballpark with interesting architectural quirks.
Minute Maid makes an impression immediately as you enter, especially if you enter into the outfield area through the former train station. The train theme is central to the entire park, from the series of arches in the outfield to the miniature train that runs back and forth above the outfield concourse.
Another noteworthy feature of Minute Maid is the design of its retractable roof (needed more for shelter from summer heat than rain) that slides from one end of the stadium to the other when opening and closing. The best part of this design is that you don’t lose the view of downtown Houston when the roof is closed. From the first base line you get a great view through glass panels (especially at sunset; see the colors of the sky in some of the pictures).
Last but not least are the food options which seemed very good here in relation to other MLB parks. Lots of options including a gourmet hot dog cart with specialties like the chili-cheese dog. Ice cream in a helmet is another nice option, with a full stand of toppings available to add as you please.
A Tip of the Cap
- Incorporating the former train station into the ballpark
- Maintaining the skyline view even when the roof is closed
- Wide variety of good concessions
- The huge high-definition screen in right-center field
Swing and a Miss
The miniature train full of oranges just doesn’t seem to hit the mark. It seems like a marketing effort that’s just trying too hard – watching it move across the outfield after an Astros’ home run is rather melodramatic.
Trip to the Mound
Enter through the old Union Station and take in batting practice from the various outfield sections. Get a seat anywhere behind home plate or down the first base line (even down in right field) for the best view of the Houston skyline as a backdrop to the game.
Overall Rating: A-
- Setting (A): Downtown but easy to access with plenty of nearby (and cheap) parking; incorporates Union Station into design and offers great view of the city (even when the roof is closed).
- External Appearance (B+): Can’t go too wrong with dark bricks, but the external appearance of the park doesn’t stand out compared to others.
- Internal Appearance (B+): Overall the park looks really nice, especially when you can see the skyline as a backdrop to the game, but there are a few elements that prevent this from being an “A” – the train full of fake oranges and the advertisements on the foul pole give a cartoonish vibe.
- Atmosphere (A-): Tough to judge as the Astros were well into last place and had just traded away Hunter Pence when I was there – not the same as when the team is in contention. Fans were still into the game and supportive of the younger members of the team.