10 Never Before Seen Facts on Minute Maid Park

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10 Never Before Seen Facts on Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park is one of the league’s climate-controlled MLB venues every baseball fan has on their bucket list. In fact, the Lone Star State ballpark opened in 2000 and last hosted the All-Star Game in 2004. Any Houston fan that bleeds Astros orange will know every information possible, from the team winning the 2017 World Series to Justin Verlander claiming the Cy Young Award in 2019. However, there are new Minute Maid Park facts that many baseball supporters never knew or never heard of in their lives. For details on what facts baseball fans rarely knew about, please refer to 10 Never Before Seen Facts on Minute Maid Park below!

10: Astros’ 1st Naming Rights Deal Came to a Controversial End

For the majority of the time, sports teams usually try to generate profit by securing a naming rights deal. Those clubs would reach out to either a big-name company or a local firm. If both sides strike a deal, then that means they will have a good business relationship. However, naming rights deals can sometimes be risky because teams may never know when there’s a public relations nightmare involving a company. Well, that was the case for the Astros when they secured a naming rights partner with local energy provider Enron®.

When the downtown retractable roof ballpark opened in 2000, the Astros venue was known as Enron Field. The partnership’s future looked bright since both sides reached a 30-year, $100 million contract for the stadium’s name. Unfortunately, Enron® was involved in a 2001 financial accounting fraud scandal. The company faced accusations of hiding debt and making false accounting statements. In early 2002, the Astros decided to cut ties with the energy provider and became Minute Maid Park. Enron® eventually went bankrupt and ceased operations in the mid-2000s. 

9: Taylor Swift has Played More Shows at Minute Maid Park

It is pretty much a common practice that large-scale musical performances are taking place at baseball stadiums. In fact, there are teams that previously hosted live music shows. Those teams were the following: Brewers, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers, Royals, Cardinals, Angels, and many more. Concerts can vary with either a post-game event or just a stand alone performance during the off-season. But did you know that Taylor Swift has played more shows at Minute Maid Park? And that doesn’t count singing at National Anthems or having themed nights. 

Taylor Swift has played a total of two shows at the Houston stadium: 2011 and 2015. In addition, the pop star’s 2015 show was bumped up a month early since the Astros made the playoffs that year. The Astros ballpark also hosted live shows by Ed Sheeran and Madonna. By the way, Jimmy Buffet was the first act to perform at Minute Maid Park in 2007. 

8: Houston Astros are Building an Entertainment District Near the Stadium

Over the past several years, baseball teams have been creating a trend in terms of adding on to the game day experience. Some teams would build restaurants and shops surrounding a ballpark. Also, the stadium’s property would consist of hotels and apartments so fans could have a place to stay following a game. Anyway, the following teams have constructed entertainment plazas near the stadium: The Battery Atlanta®-Braves, Wrigleyville-Cubs, Ballpark Village-Cardinals, and Texas Live!®-Rangers. 

Fortunately, the Houston Astros could join those four teams with mixed-use venues in the near future. In late 2021, the Astros announced plans to construct an entertainment plaza adjacent to Minute Maid Park. At the time of the reveal, the exact agenda for the new plaza was sparse. However, it is likely that the Astros will build a separate team-related restaurant as well as a couple baseball-oriented stores. The groundbreaking ceremony will take place in 2022, but there’s no timetable for when construction will finish. 

7: The Iconic Train at Left Field was Actually Built in Minnesota

Minute Maid Park is the home of many eye-catching features for fans to enjoy. One is the Crawford Boxes located in left field (named after Crawford Street in Houston). Another thing for fans to see is the Chick-Fil-A® Foul Poles. Perhaps the biggest attraction at the Astros stadium is the life-sized tram located above left field. Wherever a Houston player hits a home run or the team celebrates a victory, the train would move across the left field tracks at a slow pace. But believe it or not, the iconic train was actually built in Minnesota. 

During the new stadium’s construction phase in the late 1990s, the train was designed and developed in a manufacturing plant in Porter, MN (3.0-hour drive from Minneapolis). In the original final product, one of the train cars was filled with tree logs as a representation of the plant’s location in Minnesota. Three years after its debut in 2000, the train was modified, with the oranges now in place of the tree logs. The decision came as a tie-in for the Astros’ new naming rights partner: Minute Maid Park. 

6: Minute Maid Park’s Top-Selling Food Item was Chicken & Waffle Cone

Whenever fans go to a sporting event, they look to find a nice meal at the stadiums. No matter if it’s for baseball or any other sport, spectators would rely on concession stands in the concourse. Those stands traditionally serve hand-friendly foods like pizzas, burgers, and hot dogs. But there are some teams that go above and beyond in regards to providing the best culinary experience possible. For the Houston Astros, they have the most popular treat for fans and critics alike: the Chicken & Waffle Cone.

For those who don’t know, a Chicken & Waffle Cone is a one-of-a-kind take on a baseball classic. The treat comes with about 10 fried chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes stuffed in a waffle cone, and a honey mustard drizzle. When the Chicken & Waffle Cone debuted in 2015, the dish immediately became a cult following. In fact, fried chicken is among the most go-to food choices for anyone who sets foot in a stadium. But as of 2022, it is currently unknown if the Chicken & Waffle Cone is still available. 

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5: Before a New Stadium, the Astros Nearly Relocated to Washington D.C.

A lot of things had happened for the Houston Astros before they moved to their retractable roof stadium. First of all, the baseball club played in the National League for over 50 years. Second, the Astros reached the Championship Series twice during the 1980s. In 1986, Mike Scott threw a no-hitter vs. San Francisco Giants on the night Houston won the division title. However, all of those accomplishments have taken place at the now-closed Astrodome. Houston had been playing at the domed venue for over 30 years.

But did you know that the Houston Astros nearly relocated to Washington D.C. before Minute Maid Park? During the mid-1990s, the baseball club was looking for a new home to play in. This news came not long after the NFL’s Houston Oilers moved to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans. Anyway, the Astros looked into the nation’s capital because of its history with baseball. Washington had the Senators twice: one moved to Arlington to become the Rangers, while the other one relocated to Minneapolis to become the Twins. Eventually, the Astros got Minute Maid Park and Washington got the Nationals via relocation from Montreal. 

4: Minute Maid Park Sits on Land Formerly Used by Train Station

There are some interesting stories in regards to a stadium site’s history. Wrigley Field sat on land that was previously used by a priest school and church, while Fenway Park’s property used to be a garbage landfill. PNC Park’s site was formerly owned by industrial businesses and plants, while Dodger Stadium’s land was going to be a housing and office project. But did you know that before Minute Maid Park, there used to be a train station that dated back to the early 20th century? 

Originally opened in the early 1900s, Union Station was a transportation hub for residents of Houston. In fact, the railroad business ran for the next 60 years before joining the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. Because the venue joined the registry, the Union Station could not be demolished or imploded. Therefore, when a new Astros ballpark was selected for the railroad site, the team would have to find a way to preserve the historic building. So today, the Union Station is being used for a couple things like dinner banquets, team stores, and even weddings

3: Orbit the Mascot was Not Around When the New Ballpark Opened

When Minute Maid Park opened its doors in the early 2000s, it became a milestone moment for the Astros. They became the third team in MLB history to play in a retractable roof stadium, behind the Diamondbacks and Mariners. Fans can have the views of Downtown Houston when the roof is open, something they never get at the Astrodome. As we mentioned earlier in this article, Minute Maid Park opened with the original version of the life-sized train above left field. However, the current Astros mascot named Orbit, was not around when the new stadium opened. 

As part of a transition from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park, the Houston club adopted a new mascot: Junction Jack. He was a brown rabbit who wore a railroad uniform to represent the downtown stadium site’s history with railroads. In later years, Junction Jack switched to the pinstripe Astros uniforms. But in late 2012, the Houston club made a life-changing brand decision. Not only did the Astros move to the American League, but they also got new logos and uniforms. Most importantly, Junction Jack was no more and Orbit the Green Alien came to life. 

2: Here’s Why Astros Fans Love the Chick-Fil-A® Foul Poles

In some stadiums, they would give promotions to give fans free stuff. Those promotions range from stadium giveaways to free food from local restaurants. There could be some baseball teams that give out a free sandwich if the home team’s pitchers reach the required number of strikeouts. Another thought is a free burrito is awarded if a home team’s home run lands on a participating outfield sign. Interestingly, for the Astros, they have the Chick-Fil-A® Fowl Poles at Minute Maid Park. 

When those unique foul poles debuted in 2006, they created a cult following in the Houston community. If an Astros player hits a home run that lands on one of the foul poles, then those in attendance receive a free fried chicken sandwich. The day after the game, fans would take their ticket stub or mobile ticket to any Houston Chick-Fil-A® store to claim their free prize. Recently, 2B Jose Altuve hit a home run off the foul pole during the Astros’ 4-3 win vs. Rangers in May 2021

1: Remembering a Former Minute Maid Park Attraction: Tal’s Hill

From the olden days, the retractable roof stadium had something baseball fans can remember. One was the life-sized train with the original look of tree logs in one of the cars. The other thing was the replica of a train station that dated back to the previous century. Fans also remember Junction Jack jumping up and down the home team’s dugout during games. Perhaps the most remembered attraction people reflected on from the park’s past was Tal’s Hill. 

Named after former Astros Owner Tal Smith (1994-2011), Tal’s Hill was a huge hill at centerfield where players could actually climb up to try to catch a ball. In addition, the feature had a flag pole that was actually on the playing field. If a ball ever landed on the pole, then the call would have been declared in-play and a base hit. The hill was dedicated to Smith for his efforts to get the Astros a new stadium. Unfortunately, Tal’s Hill met its fate following the 2016 season, when the ballpark replaced the feature with new field-level seats for fans

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