Changes at Minute Maid

Astros add new dining options at Minute Maid Park — Shake Shack and Torchy's join the team

Get your Shake Shack fix at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Things are looking up for the Astros in 2017. After just missing the playoffs last season, the offseason acquisition of seasoned veterans like Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, and the return of Carlos Beltran has made the team a trendy pick to represent the American League in the World Series.

While the product on the field will always be the primary driver of fan interest, the team completed a series of renovations in center field that will enhance the experience for anyone who visits Minute Maid Park. Removing Tal’s Hill and pushing the center field fence in to 409 feet (instead of 436) will not only result in 10 to 20 more home runs per season, it also brings new seating and dining options.

“Last year when the season ended we had a hill, and we had a lot of dead space back here, but thanks to the vision of Jim Crane and the hard work of a lot of folks, today, we’re opening this area for the first time,” Astros president Reid Ryan stated during a press conference last week. “Jim had a vision for a communal gathering spot, a place in this ballpark where people could come, where they could visit, they could hang out, they could enjoy all the great things that Houston has to offer.”

Shake Shack and Torchy’s Tacos highlight the new additions. Located in the space that used to be the FiveSeven Grille, Shake Shack offers all of its signature items at the ballpark, including ShackBurgers, chicken sandwiches, mushroom burgers, fries, and shakes.

Austin-based Torchy’s brings many of its signature items, including the Trailer Park taco, fried avocado taco, and queso to a location on the mezzanine level that’s accessible by a new escalator. The area features a mural that includes all of the Astros players who have had their jersey numbers retired, as well as a few other familiar faces from outside of baseball.

Some people on social media have questioned the decision to utilize restaurants that originated outside the Houston area, but Ryan told CultureMap that the team decided to work with Torchy’s and Shake Shack after surveying its fans about which brands excited them.

“As we talked to different people about what would be the right fit, it’s quite an undertaking for a brand to come in and either staff or man this for an entire game as Torchy’s is going to do,” Ryan said. “As far as Shake Shack is concerned, Aramark has the franchise for that. They’ve had it at Citi Field in New York. They’ve made a presence in Houston (and) really the state of Texas opening a couple . . . It was a combination of, who wants to dance and who wants to dance that our friends have some affection (for). We were able to pair those up.”

Other improvements include a new Five/Seven Market with grab-and-go items like drinks, salads, and candy; the Lexus Field Club, a 100-person group space that’s located behind the Astros bullpen where fans can shag balls (field them and throw them in to a coach) during batting practice; and a street art mural by by local artist Franky Cardona that displays the team’s past, present, and future. Even fans who only watch games at home will benefit from the renovations, thanks to a new center field camera position that will more accurately depict balls and strikes.

Taken together, the center field renovation gives Astros fans a new gathering place with lots of intriguing options. Hopefully, the city’s baseball fans will get to enjoy them all the way until November.

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Originally appeared on CultureMap

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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