Astros plan to remove Tal’s HIll for 2016
The Astros have received preliminary approval from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority their plans for a $15-million renovation to Minute Maid Park that would include the removal Tal’s Hill in center field and moving the flag poles so they’re no longer in play.
Astros owner Jim Crane thanked the Sports Authority for their support at a meeting Thursday morning and said the renovation project would begin as soon as the season ends and would be finished in time for the 2016 season. The renovations would include more fan-friendly areas in center field.
The Astros hope to eventually open a Hall of Fame beyond center field or in Union Station, but that’s not part of the $15 million plan that’s been approved. The Astros will pay for the project.
“We’ve been working for some time to look at how we can improve the ballpark and we’ve gone through a number of renovations, including the diamond club, the club level, the locker rooms, the offices,” Crane told MLB.com “This is one of our big projects we knew we wanted to do. We did a lot of studies on other ballparks on the entertainment areas in center field and ours is very outdated over the life of the stadium, which has been great.
“We’ve submitted a plan to renovate center field and make it more fan-friendly and get more participation from the fans and really draw some more people in there.”
Crane said the center field fence, which currently sits 436 feet from home plate, would be brought in to about 409 feet. The extra space beyond the wall would be used for additional concessions and fan-friendly areas where spectators can watch the game.
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan and senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite toured more than 20 ballparks last year to get ideas for reimagining the center field area.
“As you know, Tal’s Hill, some people love it, some people hate it,” Crane said. “We just thought it would be a better ballpark by moving that in. It will still be a very deep center field. There’s always been concern with the flag poles in play and danger in that and also the injuries going up the Hill, so we think this would be better for the players, utilize the space better and be a very pretty ballpark.”
Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000, is owned by the taxpayers of Harris County and the city of Houston, so any changes must be approved by the Sports Authority, which serves as the landlord.
“Any time our tenants want to spend a significant amount money to upgrade our facilities, I think it’s in the taxpayers’ best interest to do that,” said Kenny Friedman, chairman of the Sports Authority. “We’ve been working with them all along on what their ideas are. They have great ideas, and I think the public will be excited by what they’re planning on doing there.”
Brathwaite, who said the Astros will begin putting the center field project out to bid soon to make sure they’re staying with in the budget, said the eventual Hall of Fame concept will aim to preserve the legacy of the franchise.
“We want to make sure we’ve have a great home to celebrate the tremendous history we have here,” he said.