The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

After new deal, Astros will call Minute Maid Park home until 2050

Minute Maid Park will host the Astros for a long time. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images

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The deal was complicated. Complex. Could have even been a tad bit contentious at times during discussions. Who knows?

But there’s only one thing that matters.

The Houston Astros will call Minute Maid Park home through 2050.

At a time when some cities are bickering with their professional teams about facilities, the Harris County -- Houston Sports Authority Board of Directors and the Astros announced a 25-year extension of the Astros' lease Monday afternoon. The team’s original lease was set to expire in 2030.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called it a win-win. And a win.

“It’s a big, big plus,’’ Turner said. “Minute Maid is a big fan favorite and not just in the City of Houston. We don’t have to build a stadium every 20 years like some cities are doing.

“There will continue to be improvements and that means it will continue to be a state of the art facility. The Astros are going to be here for a long time. It’s a win-win for the Houston Sports Authority and the Houston Astros. And most of all for the City of Houston.’’

And it may get even better. Astros owner Jim Crane loves the feel of being downtown and the team has already purchased several properties surrounding Minute Maid – the former New Hope Housing projects on Hamilton Street and properties adjacent to the park on Texas.

“It’s a great stadium,’’ Crane said. “Downtown is starting to grow and we wanted to remain right in the middle of it. Downtown is thriving so it’s the spot to be.

“We want to make a long-term commitment to the stadium, keep it up to date and make it a great fan experience for all of our fans.’’

Astros president Reid Ryan indicated fan upgrades could include more gates and more efficient foot traffic flow in and out of the stadium.  An underground restaurant and more community areas are other ideas Crane mentioned. The club already spent money to remove Tal’s Hill from center field and add a new center field concourse, which features food from Houston restaurants.

The lease extension includes a rent increase of $1 million beginning this year for the remainder of the original lease (through 2030) and an additional $1 million increase for the 20-year extension (through 2050). A majority of the increases will go towards maintenance and repairs at Minute Maid.

"The Sports Authority's Board of Directors has worked very hard to be a good landlord to the team, as well as to protect the community's investment and ensure that the stadium remains state-of-the-art," Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman said.

"The venue has been a great addition to the downtown landscape for fans and players alike. The Sports Authority is proud to support our reigning World Champions, and this lease extension furthers the commitment to maintaining Minute Maid Park for many years to come."

Crane, who had expressed interest in an extension three years ago, said the team didn’t want to wait until the end of the lease to take care of an extension.

“It’s difficult to build stadiums now,’’ he said. “These guys – the city and the county -- have done a great job of supporting us.’’

Both Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett pointed to Crane’s  commitment to the city. And, now, the city’s commitment to him.

“Everywhere you go now, people are wearing Astros stuff,’’ Emmett said. “You are the community. This community has just bought into the class act that is the Houston Astros…This is a thrilling day.”

 

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This is getting out of hand. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images.

Dr. Rick warns his patients, young homeowners who are turning into their parents, you can expect to pay more for snacks and drinks at a movie theater. It's the same deal at a professional sports venue. Three years ago, I put a down payment on a cheeseburger at Toyota Center ... I still have three more payments to go before I get it.

But this is ridiculous. The PGA Championship, the lesser (least) of golf's majors, is charging $18 for a beer, a 25-ounce Michelob Ultra, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. It's $19 for a Stella Artois. You can buy a six-pack for less at the supermarket. Aren't there laws against price gouging, like during a hurricane? Isn't Tulsa where the Golden Hurricanes play? Get FEMA in here. Did tournament directors get together and ponder, how can we piss off our fans? Sure, it's Tulsa and there's not much else to do, but that's no excuse.

Charging $18 for a beer makes the concession stands at Minute Maid Park look like a Sunday morning farmer's market. A 25-ounce domestic beer during an Astros game is $13.49. A 25-ounce premium beer is $14.45. Yeah, that's high for a beer, but at Minute Maid Park there are lots of hands in the till. Aramark wants to make a profit, the taxman has big mitts, and the Astros want their cut, too. Look, you want to sign Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to an extension or not? Then drink up and don't complain. Some quiet grumbling and head-shaking is permitted, however.

You know the PGA Championship is charging too much for a beer when even the rich pampered players take notice. "18 (!!!!!) for a beer ... uhhh what," former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas tweeted. "Good thing I don't drink a lot."

Like he will be in line for a beer at a public concession booth, anyway.

Of course there will be fans sneaking in beer in baggies strapped to their ankles, like stuffing your pockets with store-bought Snickers before going to the movies. It doesn't have to be this way. The Masters, the most prestigious golf event, charges only $5 for both domestic and imported beer. I know it's a gimmick, part of The Masters mystique along with pimento sandwiches for $1.50, but still it's a welcome gesture. You never lose when you treat the public fairly. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank insisted that food vendors charge the same inside the stadium as they do at their regular restaurants. Same thing when Denver International Airport opened, fast food restaurants couldn't jack up their prices to their captive customers. Here? There needs to be a loan window outside the Cinnabon booth at Bush-Intercontinental.

Except for the Masters in Augusta, golf's majors aren't tied to a city. A major comes to a city maybe every few years or in most cases never. There's no need to ride into a city like the James Gang, rob the local bank, and high tail it out of town. Golf should be the last professional sport to stick it to fans. While the game has made strides to open its arms to lower-income youths, golf remains an elitist, extremely expensive sport for regular folk. Equipment is expensive, private courses are exclusive and country clubs are exclusionary. Public courses are less expensive but still expensive and crowded. Plus there's never been a professional sport more dangerously dominated by one person than golf. I can imagine network executives on their knees praying that Tiger Woods makes the cut and plays on weekends. Otherwise, TV ratings go straight into the toilet, you know, like whatever team Mattress Mack is betting on. (I joke because I love, and frankly a little scared.)

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