Astros: Center Field Renovations is Not Just About the Money
A chat with the Astros’ Mike Acosta on the center field project at MMP.
On September 28, 2016, the Houston Astros played their last game with Tal’s Hill in center field. Tal’s Hill has been around since the stadium was built back in 2000. It was a tribute to some of the early ballparks that had slight incline instead of a warning track. The idea came from then team president Tal Smith. It was a unique feature to the ballpark but was not overly appreciated by fans and players alike.
This project was supposed to take place last year. With the Astros making the playoffs and a few details not worked out, they decided to wait one more season. Many of the people who liked the hill have Tweeted that the Astros leadership is being greedy. They removed the hill only to make more money in the future.
Yesterday, I contacted the Astros Authentics department about picking up my outfield wall panel soon. While they have set a date for the pickup of any chairs or wall panels of November 5th, they allowed me to come early. My contact Greg let Mike Acosta know that I was coming, so they thought that I would like to take a tour of the ballpark.
Was money the only factor for change?
While I had met Acosta once before at Fanfest following the new alternate jersey reveal last year, but this was the first time one on one. Knowing that I would want to see the construction or demolition as he called it, he gave me a tour.
Before we did, I asked him about whether the Astros made the change for the money like people accuse them. Acosta said that yes they did make the change for the money, why else would they do it? He stated that people tend to forget they are a business, and they are trying to do things for the bottom line. With that said, they seek to improve the experience for the fans.
The Astros are investing a lot of money into this project, about $19 million dollars. With the goal of wanting to put fans back in center field. They will put a wall that will run along where the left edge of the hill to the bullpen area. They will have a batters’ eye made out of ivy with a plastic Astros logo in the center.
Looking deeper into the changes.
You will now be able to watch the game from the top of the batters’ eye for the first time at Minute Maid Park. You will be able to see the ballpark from the center field entrance. Fans may remember the wall of honor as you walked in that entry, that will now be open for you to walk in like you could the Crawford Boxes.
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They will have something that they are referring to as the launch tower, which will be a video screen tower. There will now be the ability to do graphics vertically as they do horizontally when an Astro player walks. The restaurant will be larger to facilitate more capacity and fans will be able to sit behind the outfield wall next to the bullpen.
There will also be an escalator to go to the mezzanine level. The new center field marker will be 409 feet, which was moved in 27 feet. I know that I was able to buy a piece of the wall, but the panel with 436 will be on display somewhere.
Two of the three mezzanine sections in the 200’s have already been removed, but they have to be careful removing the third section. They are not removing the bullpen section, so they have to be careful not to damage the section underneath. Acosta said the biggest thing that he notices is the dust that is stacking up on everything.
Pardon the dust Astros fans.
They are hoping to have construction completed by Fanfest 2017. If you noticed all the wood that was laid down for the construction vehicles in the pictures, you might be wondering about the grass. Acosta said they are replacing the sod of entire field and should have it done before the College Classic.
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Yes, they are doing it for the money, but they also want to give fans a different experience in 2017. Thanks to Acosta for giving me a tour of the demolition and talking about the plans with me. While some may miss the hill, we will always have the memories of Lance Berkman‘s butt plant catch in Tal’s Hill. The Astros are looking to the future, which hopefully includes a return to the playoffs in 2017.