Astros Ready To Flatten Houston’s Only Air-Conditioned Hill, Fill Space with Bars, Food, Behind-the-Fence Seating

Rendering of Proposed Renovations to Minute Maid Park Center Field, Downtown Houston

The Astros announced today that the team had received preliminary approval from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to knock down the banked bit of center field past the Minute Maid Park warning track known as Tal’s Hill. The graded area was named after the team’s former president, Tal Smith, who first suggested including an elevation change — a rarity both in baseball and in Houston — to the stadium soon to be known as Enron Field. The proposed renovations, priced at $15 million and scheduled to take place at the end of the current season, would also straighten out the center field fence and bring it in to 409 ft. from home plate (from the current 436 ft.). More important, the opened-up space beyond would allow room for 3 new bars and 4 new food-service locations, as well as a new group seating area at the field level, which conceptual renderings of the new design released by the American League team (above and below) appear to show tucked behind a new see-through portion of the centerfield fence.


Rendering of Proposed Renovations to Minute Maid Park Center Field, Downtown Houston

Rendering of Proposed Renovations to Minute Maid Park Center Field, Downtown Houston

The renovations, designed by MSA Architects, will also result in the removal of the flagpole from the playing field, but the pole’s new position is not shown in the distributed renderings. The angled planting area beyond the existing fence makes a reappearance in the new design, this time as a wall of greenery festooned with what looks like a topiary version of the Astros logo. A new escalator will also be added.

Renderings: Houston Astros

Off Ramp

24 Comment

  • That’s just great! We need more popcorn and beer stands! Lets work as hard as we can to make everything in Houston as generic and uninteresting as possible!

    This is so typical of my hometown.

  • How can this possibly cost $15 million?
    The entire soccer stadium cost only $60 million (not including the $20 million used to improve the utilities around the stadium).
    And it is going to cost 1/4 the cost of the entire soccer stadium to get rid of some dirt and move a fence closer to home plate? Yikes.

  • I’m starting a petition to have center field declared a historic district to prevent this crass land grab and desecration of a Houston landmark.

  • Now the Miller Outdoor is the only elevation left in town.

  • About time. That hill always looked like a mistake.

  • Great idea…even more empty seats in the background of the games.

  • They should just move the wall to be 10 feet behind second base and admit that baseball is only about home runs.

  • Why move the fence in and then put up a miniature “green Monster?”

  • Why is the government in the baseball stadium business?

  • Maybe some of that $15 Million is being spent on a new smokestack for the steam engine? The renderings all show the locomotive with a smaller spark arrestor than it currently has-which may have been overkill for burning oranges anyway since the name change.

    I liked the hill since it was different, but can understand it really just gets in the way (of new bars & revenue, not gameplay).

  • StuartSnow: The new “green monster” you note is above the yellow “home run” line, so it would not be in play a la Boston.

  • And to sell more advertising for revenue. They seemed to have left that part out.

    So, spend $15 mil in order to make money off added concessions and advertising revenue.

  • I will miss having the deepest centerfield in baseball balancing out the second shortest left field next to Fenway Park. Batters at Minute Maid Park have to clear a 19′ wall in left field while the Green Monster is 27′ high, but who’s to quibble.

    These days, people go to the ballpark for “entertainment.” The game on the field is just a side show. Crane and company certainly know how to tap that resource. I just wish they would eliminate the visual blight of the “fowl” poles. Of course, if they did, they would need to find another revenue source–perhaps hooking up a dining car to the train and charging megabucks for an all-you-can-eat buffet with endless 300′ rides, back and forth during the course of the game.

  • Another reason why I don’t go to any Astros / Texans / Rockets games- money spent on stupid distractions .And the teams still suck. And not in a good way !!!

  • Looks like the flagpoles got moved next to the Citgo sign, bolted in to the support structure for the last Community Leaders adboard. Leaving the topiary batter’s eye right there is going to lead to some interesting homeruns.
    @Will: Yeah, so the 300′ rides in a dining car hitched to the back of the train would be awesome…

  • Wow….people on Swamplot are just as clueless about baseball as they are about real estate…go figure?

  • It’s a shame that the ‘Stros are removing an iconic feature of the park. Is there more thrilling play than seeing a player make a overhead catch on the hill? I feel this more exciting than seeing a home run robbed. And of course, there’s the incident of Carlos “Beltrader” Beltran falling on the hill. And Richie Sexson robbed of a monstrous homerun after striking the flag pole.

    No other park in baseball features a inclined surface, nor a obstruction in play. It was a nice nod to vintage ballparks which some feature giant outfields and some with obstacles in play (ie. monuments and flagpoles). In one era, spectators sat deep in the outfield! Tal’s Hill and the unusual outfield was a nice feature, opposite of the bland symmetric Dome’s symmetric field.

    The “upgrades” appear to be lackluster. The field seating appears to be intriguing, however, who want to seat on the field, deep into the outfield? Could you see the home plate from this vantage? These field seats could be the worst seats at MMP. The flagged-wrapped obelisk seems tacky, and out-of-place for a ballpark. Unless it’s being added to sneak in an elevator and stairs, it seems pointless. The Budweiser party deck seems to be the best new feature.

    It’s a shame the hill will be gone after the season. Removing an iconic feature for….hmmmmm. Glad to see the ‘Stros are footing the $15 million bill.

  • The flag poles are just to the right of the Citgo sign in the first and third renderings.

  • “Keep Houston Bland”!!!!

  • Looks FUGLY. Would make more sense to move the bullpen to to where the “Field Club Houston” is positioned, and replace the current bullpen with new seats.

  • They’re going to install even more seats the average family can’t afford to sit in?

  • Only $15m? Seems like this would be $300m minimum. Wonder how they’re getting so much done for so little money.

  • Brilliant: I don’t want to defend the ever increasing cost of tickets, but I think you can still get plenty of seats for under $20. While that’s not “cheap” (and I won’t even try to defend concession prices), it’s not terrible.

  • Seems to me real Astro fans would hate to see their field get more generic and lose the deepest centerfield! Jeez! Why is a quirky nod to historic baseball (Tal’s Hill) such a bee in everybody’s bonnet?
    How about building that new snazzy bar-seating hanging over home plate?
    Glass floor.
    Access by skydiving, only.