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Minute Maid 2.0

The Astros are staying in their home stadium for the long term.

Now that the Astros are in Minute Maid Park for the long haul, “Minute Maid Park 2.0” is in the works.

The Harris County Houston Sports Authority on Monday unanimously approved an extension through 2050 on the club’s lease at the downtown, 18-year-old stadium.

“It’s difficult to build stadiums now,” said Astros owner Jim Crane. “We felt the options were not very many around downtown where there would be a good piece of land if we even thought about building a new stadium. We thought with the proper maintenance program and the improvements we continue to make for the ballpark, that was a better option for the city and it certainly was a better option for us.”

[…]

[Astros president of business operations Reid] Ryan said the club has hired MSA — a Cincinnati-based architecture group that developed the plan for recent renovations in center field — to begin planning what he termed “Minute Maid Park 2.0.”

“We’ve got a big white board and we’re looking at all kinds of things,” Ryan said. “Our goal, and with Jim’s direction and this lease, is to make sure our stadium stays the best in class for the next 20-30 years.”

Exceptions like Fenway and Wrigley aside, the life span of sports venues is in the 40-50 year range. Fifty is how old Minute Maid will be at the end of this lease extension. For all the reasons given above, it makes a lot of sense to plan for upgrades rather than think in terms of the next location, especially if they like the current location. It’s also likely to be cheaper to renovate, and you can amortize that expense over multiple years. This is a good plan all around.

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24 Comments

  1. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Hell no. No more taxpayer money for billionaires subsidies. If you like pro sports, pay for it yourself. Lets have a vote on it. And lets have a Harris County Houston Sports Authority consisting of elected members, accountable to those paying the bills.

  2. C.L. says:

    @Tom… where does Kuff’s post say anything about billionaire subsidies ? Per this lease extension, the Astros’s lease payment increases from $1M to $8.1M/year with “most of the additional funds going into the annual $2.5 million capital improvement fund on which the team can draw.” That sounds a pretty good deal to me.

  3. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    So basically, Crane got a fixed price lease at todays dollars, with any additional increments going back to himself.
    Can anyone get a lease on a 20 year old useable building downtown using those terms? Of course not. Id love to rent space at 1998 prices, with any small increase from that going for my exclusive benefit.
    The appears to me of being yet another example of HCHSA using fuzzy math to justify giveaways, in this case, a cut rate lease that exposes the taxpayers to inflation risk. This is a terrible deal.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree with Tom, surprisingly. This is crony capitalism, sweetheart dealing that isn’t available to the average Joe Shmoe. It’s a neat trick, soaking hotel and motel guests to fund playpens for pro sports teams.

    If the sports teams paid full freight for the use of the stadiums, then there would be no need to goose people staying at local hotels.

  5. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The solution is an ELECTED Harris County Houston Sports Authority Board. As well as strong regulation of cable must take contracts for sports programming for those companies regulated by municipalities. Let the people who want pro sports pay the full cost of that and stop shoving the costs of those activities off onto people who dont want to pay for it. Most tourists to Houston arent coming to watch a pro game. Most cable consumers dont want 300 bucks a year in non elective pro sports fees bundled into their cable bills. Let the people vote on how HCHSA funds stuff or have them directly accountable to the voters.

    By the way, the soaking of the tourists is probably far less than the soaking of cable consumers.

  6. C.L. says:

    Hold on…. the citizens of Harris County are okay with the Astrodome Albatross and the money spent every year to stop mold from growing and to keep the bats from roosting, but we’re not okay with hotels and rental car businesses adding X% to their bills to help subsidize Minute Maid and Reliant/NRG ? $18M for 18 yrs worth of lease payments increasing to $259.2M for 32 yrs worth of lease payments is a bad thing ?

    Re: “…If the sports teams paid full freight for the use of the stadiums…” Name me one major league sports facility in Houston (besides BBVA) where the taxpayers didn’t okay the expenditure (possibly to their own financial detriment)….

  7. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Regarding your math…How much of the 260million will NOT be used for pro sports? Its not really rent if it isnt returned to the owner for the owners discretionary use.

    The Dome issue is a complicated one.. i support tearing it down, but id rather pay to leave it rotting thsn to give McNair any more freebies

  8. C.L. says:

    I’m not so sure the Dome issue is any more or any less complicated than the lease arrangement at Minute Maid.

  9. Manny Barrera says:

    All I can add is that only twice have I voted in favor of bonds, both times it had to do with education. I have been in Houston since 1970 and vote every election.

    But for the sports sections the Chronicle and many other news papers would not exist, nor would most cable, but folks like me are not in the majority when it comes to sports.

  10. Manny Barrera says:

    Dang I wish there was an edit,

    Those hotel and rental cars taxes are mostly paid by locals, especially the rental cars when you have an accident.

    https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2001/08/13/editorial4.html

  11. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Thank you for the article. It doesnt show any evidence that any area growth was directly related to these giveaways to the billionaire owners. Id argue that the growth downtown had little to do with any spending on sports. Why? Because you only need to look at the nonexistent incremental growth around NRG to see how sports investment doesnt transform areas. It was high oil prices that transformed downtown IMHO.

  12. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Heres a question. Have non sports fans ever received any direct return on their investment in stadia, jacked up must take cable bills, higher taxes, higher fees, etc? Has HCHSA ever paid any funds back to the general fund?
    Yes Im aware that another plutocrat, Joel Osteen, has received a tangible benefit from the taxpayers spending on sports. Im talking about average taxpayers.

    This lease is a disaster. No accountability to the taxpayers, and Crane appears to basically get a long term lease at 1998 rental rates, with all additional payments going for his sole benefit. The lease is so long as to bring into question whether HCHSA just effectively gave Minute Maid to Crane, for no consideration that isnt Crane paying Crane.

  13. Bill Daniels says:

    Tom,

    I didn’t know about the cable TV tax, I don’t have cable tv, but I agree, that’s not fair for those customers.

    C.L.:

    I’m OK with the taxpayers paying for a multi use stadium like the Astrodome, as long as the project not only breaks even, but shows a profit equal to or greater than the amount of property tax revenue that would otherwise be levied on a private stadium owner.

    Minute Maid? That’s a single purpose facility….for a baseball team. To my knowledge, no appreciable revenue is being brought in by Minute Maid from any other customer, so if the Astros aren’t covering the full cost of it, including what would be collected in property taxes, then the Astros are being subsidized by the taxpayers, and, as Tom rightly points out, that ain’t cool.

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L.:

    I also agree with Tom that decisions about building this kind of elective infrastructure should always be put to a vote. Had the citizens of Harris County like Manny been presented with the facts, that we would render useless the Astrodome and saddle taxpayers with a big bill for NRG Stadium, Toyota Center and the others, I doubt they would have been built. The Summit was perfectly functional, as Joel Osteen has proved. The Astrodome was also perfectly functional.

    People made their fortunes on the new stadiums, but it wasn’t me, wasn’t Tom, and probably wasn’t you either. As Tom points out, our part in all of this is to pay higher rental car taxes, and higher cable TV bills. Color me unimpressed.

  15. Manny Barrera says:

    Tom, I wan’t trying to prove growth or no growth, not sure there have been studies on that here in Houston. Just stating that residents are the ones mostly pay for the stadiums.

    There are studies, but frankly the stadiums passed, I can live with that, except if the Russians are involved like in the election of their person that sits in the White House.

    https://www.brookings.edu/articles/sports-jobs-taxes-are-new-stadiums-worth-the-cost/

  16. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Theres no cable tv tax, per se. But in order to get cable programming, the vast majority of cable consumers are required to pay massive fees for professional sports programming. This is many multiples of the stated sports fee on the cable bill. Effectively its a tax though. The solution is to allow Houston and other municipalities to regulate cable bundles. Its just another involuntary payment.

  17. Bill Daniels says:

    Damn, Tom, and we were doing so well. LOL

    I disagree with forcing a private business to change HOW they do business. A la carte cable service would be great, I would think the majority of consumers would like that, too. I might even consider getting cable if that were the case, but as it is, cable providers are offering a product the way they see fit, and they seem to be pretty successful as is.

    Would you insist that Harris County mandate that grocery stores like HEB be required to sell one piece of fruit for every item of junk food purchased? While that might help promote more healthy eating, I’m glad that regulation isn’t there (yet.)

  18. C.L. says:

    Tom, Manny, Bill, you re absolutely right. Houston citizens aren’t on the direct end of lease payments. All these stadiums must go ! NRG, Toyota Ctr, BBVA, Minute Maid, TDECU@UH, etc. Close the facilities, send the teams packing. Discontinue rental car and hotel taxes associated with the facilities and tell all the fans who come into town for these events to stay home and root on the Padres, Packers, 76ers, etc., on their rabbit-earned antenna-configured console televisions. And while we’re at it, let’s discontinue all the sports programs at UH, TSU, Rice, HBU, San Jac, etc, because, FFS, schools are for book learning, not for serving as farm teams for the NBA, NFL, etc. Zero (CofH) return on investment on any of it.

  19. Manny Barrera says:

    C.L. I said I lost and could live with that, stating facts does not mean that I agree with what you wrote.

    How many fans come into town? I believe it is called Harris County Sports Authority. So how many from outside the county? https://www.houstonsports.org/

    I am not a sports fan, other than high school football and occasionally baseball depending what teams get to the playoffs. Have only missed one high school championship in Dallas in the last 10 years.

  20. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Actually the current cable/sports system is exactly like you suggest. You have to buy ESPN to get other channels. Cable/internet is not an efficient market, mainly because of limits on competition. For example Texas bans municipalities from forming internet/cable utilities. Some of the extra cost we pay for internet/cable is greed, but a LOT of it is involuntary sports fees.

  21. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The universities you mentioned arent private businesses with an owner. As far as taxpayer subsidies of college sports go, those soak taxpayers and student via massive involuntary student fees for the most part. Most G5 schools lose 300 million bucks on athletics every 10 years. AAC schools (UH) lose more. That needs to be shut down, at least for the public institutions. But thats OT.

    Look, you want sports…pay for it yourself. Dont require us to pay for your entertainment. Thats all.

    This lease is yet another giveaway.

  22. David Fagan says:

    If the payments go into a fund the team can “draw” from, I’m sure the same idea can be applied to individual home owners. The property taxes they pay go into a separate find individual homeowners can draw from to improve their own house, or its immediate area. Give the home owners the ability to use those funds reserved for improving their area and Houston would look entirely different and also support more jobs than the professional sports claim they do.

  23. Ross says:

    A few semi-random thoughts.

    The ball park already exists, and there’s no one else that’s going to rent it for the same price as the Astros, since there’s almost no viable alternative uses.

    The portion of rent going into a renovation fund makes sense. If the Astros walk away, the HSA has the cash to make repairs, updates, or demolish the structure.

    Minute Maid absolutely drove the making of Downtown into a destination for activities other than work. Absent Minute Maid, there would be far fewer restaurants and hotels, or apartments, than exist now, with their attendant sales and property taxes. With Minute Maid, more folks stay Downtown after work, or come downtown eat, drink, and be merry around the sports activities. That didn’t happen at NRG, because it’s in the middle of a giant parking lot, doesn’t have a large number of people working nearby, and is not an especially pleasant place to visit, other than for a ball game.

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