The Dome vs. Enron Field/Minute Maid Park

The Houston Colt .45s/Astros have spent their 58 seasons in three ballparks. For the purpose of this post, we will ignore the original Colt Stadium the temporary home of the Colt .45s for their first three seasons (1962-64) as the Astrodome was being built. It is best remembered for cementing the need for a domed stadium between its combination of heat, humidity, rain and mosquitoes. The stadium remained abandoned in the parking lot of the Astrodome for the better part of a decade before it was sold to a Mexican league team. It was moved and used in two different cities in Mexico ending up in Tampico where it was finally demolished, last being used in 1985.

The Astrodome was completed for the 1965 season and was the first major multi-purpose domed stadium in the world. Interestingly, a domed stadium (designed by famed architect Buckminster Fuller) had been proposed as a solution to keeping the Brooklyn Dodgers in Brooklyn, but disagreements between city planner Robert Moses and Dodger owner Walter O’Malley on location led to the Dodger’s exodus to Los Angeles.

The Harris County Domed Stadium (The Eighth Wonder of the World) was the brainchild of owner Roy Hofheinz and was truly a spectacular step forward for an indoor venue for outdoor activities. The Dome became the go-to for spectacular events ranging from bullfighting, Evel Knievel motorcycle jumps, Billie Jean King – Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” (might have been more impressive if she had beaten Ilie Nastase – just saying), the UCLA – UH basketball game of the century and of course the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Judy Garland with the Supremes opening for her was the first concert there, and the Rolling Stones, Metallica, The Who and Pink Floyd were among the headliners, who came through.

But baseball with the Astros and football with the Oilers were the big pro sports users of the Dome. (OK the Rockets did play there part-time before the Summit was being built).  The UH Cougars football team played there for 32 seasons.

It was truly a unique and spectacular experience to go to a game there for the first time. From the outside, the Dome seemed humongous, stretching so wide and high above a flat as a Ken Giles fastball prairie. Walking inside it and riding the escalators (usually way up) to your seating level raised the expectations and then entering the interior, walking up those steps like a mountain goat to your spot and sitting in those seats and facing the largest indoor space anyone had ever seen was awe-inspiring. The pre-game with Herb Alpert tunes in the background and crude video on the scoreboard, the cute little cartoons during the game, and the truly exciting exploding scoreboard all enhanced the experience.

The Dome served the team well from 1965 into the ’90s, but the old girl started to look dated and both the football and the baseball teams were interested in separate stadiums that served their sport better. The Oilers left and that gave Drayton McLane a lot of leverage towards getting a new stadium and so Enron Field came to be for the 2000 season.

The new stadium’s roof could be retracted, which it was for early season games and often pulled back late in summertime games. Enron was a more intimate experience than the Dome with the fans closer to the action and the field proved more intimate in the era of PED assistance and soon earned the title of Ten-Run Field.

A few years later due to some small financial difficulties at Enron that closed them down and threw their leaders in prison, the name of the stadium was changed to Minute Maid Park.  The park over time became a less offensive friendly spot as pitchers learned to force hitters to keep the ball more often in the vast centerfield area.

The Astros made the biggest change to the field in the off-season after 2016 when they took down Tal’s Hill and moved in the center field fence. This set the team back so much they won the 2017 World Series (that’s my take and I’m sticking to it), and had very successful 2018 and 2019 seasons.

So when we look at the two main stadiums the Astros have played in, how do we compare them.

  • Location – The Enron/Minute Maid Park location is a far more central location that made the trips from the northern and eastern parts of the Houston Area a much easier drive.
  • Parking – The Astrodome location provided a ton of parking at a set price all the way around the Dome. Yes, it could be a pain with everyone trying to get out of the same gates, but you knew what price you would be paying and did not have to walk through what some times can be a bit dicey neighborhood.
  • Comfort – The Dome seats were cushioned and were a bit wider than the hardwood torture chairs at MMP.
  • Site Lines – The technology of the time led to the Dome being built like a huge bowl. A vast majority of the fans were just farther away from the action than at MMP. In addition, fans at Minute Maid can wander around the ground level and see the game from many different angles from the promenade.
  • Atmosphere – The Dome (especially later) could hold many more fans than at MMP. It was the loudest place I have ever been during some of the peak years. On the other hand, the Dome had a lot more times when it was a tomb, than MMP has faced. This is a bit of a push.
  • History – The Dome was history. It was the first of its kind in the World. However, as far as success goes, the Astros never won a playoff series in the Dome. There were some tremendous games played there, but they mostly ended with the Astros on the wrong end of the scoreboard. All of their playoff success including their 2017 WS run occurred at MMP.

In the end, where you stand on the choice between the two stadiums may well depend on your individual experiences there. Which one do you pick?

60 comments on “The Dome vs. Enron Field/Minute Maid Park

  1. Astrodome was the perfect radical change for stadiums of the 20th century.
    MMP is the absolute perfect baseball stadium for Houston Tx and the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the Dome and saw so many great events there over the years. Baseball, football, basketball, rodeo, circus, concerts, tennis, fights, Boy Scout Jamborees, Boat Shows, demolition derbies and tractor pulls. Heck, even Billy Graham sold the place out. I didn’t think the Astros needed a new stadium, but the first time I stepped into the new ballpark, it was love at first sight. Yes, I have to admit that MMP is a better place to watch baseball, but the Astrodome had a bigger-than-life quality that was unmatched and it will always be my favorite “Celebrity Venue”.
    P.S. we talk about how big the Astrodome seemed, but I always shake my head over how puny it looks up next to Reliant Stadium

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know many are done with “It,” the first one.

    But here are some details Joe Rivera of the Sporting News reported.
    If you listened to Roger Clemens interview I posted recently, he discussed all the ways he communicated with his catcher, and how they used dummy signs quite often, knowing there was always an eye in the sky.
    At an rate, he’s what I have:

    A source told me late last year that the Yankees allegedly had three different cameras set up in the outfield in 2017 — left, right and center — trained on the catcher’s mitt to steal signs.
    Those signs would then be decoded in the dugout and relayed to the hitter during games/at-bats. It had been happening in 2017 and before. Really, stuff that we kind of already knew.
    According to the source, the Yankees have “four guys” who strictly go over signs during a game, revealing signs to players, live, in moment, during an AB. When a player made it to second, the signs would be relayed to the hitter.
    According to the source, there were multiple teams who were using different methods of sign stealing, including the Yankees, Rangers, Royals and Phillies.
    I’d like to point out: this is ONE source who told me these things, and I’ve had a fair level of difficulty verifying some of the finer details of the sign-stealing coming from New York. But, from what I gather, it’s much more widespread than we believe/MLB would have you think.
    Same source: Whistling, live feeds during games, person in stands, posture/positioning of coaches — from how a coach sits in the dugout to stepping forward with a right or left leg on the field — are all methods of how signs have been stolen.
    Before any fanbases take a victory lap, consider this from a separate source earlier in the year.
    Sign-stealing in MLB had become so widespread that, “they’d have to suspend half the league” if all of the sign-stealing stuff came to light.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never been to a game at Minute Maid. Why? I absolutely cannot stand driving in Downtown, or truthfully being in downtown in general. Too crowded and busy for me. The Dome may have been in the hood, but it was easy to get to and back without worrying about getting t-boned by a guy driving a Prius going the wrong way, and then getting accosted by shady people while staring at the smoldering wreckage of what used to be your sole means of transportation. No thanks. The dome may have been a dated relic smelling of beer and urine , and with the worst hotdogs I’ve ever seen that wasn’t at a gas station, but I felt safer, as long as I kept making sure my doors we’re locked at every light

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You folks are a lot of fun with your viewpoints.

    Old pro – yes I believe we have had two top notch places to watch our team over the years
    Roadthriller – have to agree it is almost off putting to see how much NRG/ Reliant looms over the Dome
    Gostros – I felt at the time that Manfred’s main mission was to funnel almost all the blame in the Astros direction and I felt like it continued with the Red Sox hand slap. And I certainly think he did his best to protect the flagship franchise
    Billy C – Even though I work downtown (or did 3 months ago) – I never liked being downtown much after dark – though we did lock all doors trying to get away from the Dome

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  6. Astrodome, for a lot of the reasons Billy stated but also because it was the first place I ever saw my beloved sport played live. Heck, back in the 70s I used ride metro to the games. Yes, I was young and stupid, but I never felt afraid.
    MMP, on the other hand, is a great place to watch baseball but getting there, parking, and walking those dark streets Just ain’t fun to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have not had the pleasure of being at either the Dome or Minute Maid in person, since I am a long-distance fan living on an island in the middle of an ocean; so I can’t really compare the two.

    Here is a video clip of one of my earliest virtual experiences of the Astrodome: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=bad+news+bears+houston+astros&&view=detail&mid=E2A7B1B1631EB34AEF29E2A7B1B1631EB34AEF29&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dbad%2Bnews%2Bbears%2Bhouston%2Bastros%26FORM%3DHDRSC3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah – not a great movie but it was fun to see the Dome and a few of the Astros like Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno featured.
      I’ve never watched it – but Brewster McCloud is about a young man living in the bowels of the Dome

      Like

      • I wasn’t in Houston then but a childhood friend told me she attended the premier of Brewster McCloud at the Dome. I thought it was a neat movie.
        When I lived back in Houston around 75 a friend of mine came came down to attend Law School at U of H. He wanted to go to the Dome so we bought tickets to an Oilers game and away we went. We parked but both of us forgot where we parked. We left early to beat the crowd as the Oilers’ were getting beat like a drum but couldn’t find our car. We walked around looking for the car and after a hour and half we finally found it. It was easy considering there probably weren’t a hundred cars left. At least we didn’t have to contend with the exit traffic.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Some ideas for upcoming topics:
    * If you are James Click, what is your long term plan to keep the Astros competitive? Does he have enough info on the players who are going to be free agents in the next couple of years to formulate a plan?
    * If the season comes to a 50+game or so fruition in the next week, how would you plan for spring training II? How do you use MMP facilities to your utmost advantage? What and where do you use your veteran minor leaguers?
    * You have a new manager, a new GM and a new president of baseball operations. How do you plan to present those guys to the world and how have you been working on that while baseball has been sleeping?
    * If there is no formal MILB season, what do you plan to do this winter with all those MILB players who need to play some baseball in order to advance?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. More:
    * The old saying “It’s a long season” does not apply this year. How do you plan to get your team in first place from the get-go? What steps do you take to go into playoff mode on the first game of the season?
    This business of resting players regularly during the season, does it go out the window when you are in a playoff hunt on opening day?
    * The Astros GM is used to having a team with no money. How will this work when he is suddenly in a situation where he has money and an organization which won’t settle for less than being awesome?
    What will the schedule look like? The Astros have to travel west to play 8 teams in their division. Does the scheduler make any concessions for the other eight teams only having to travel east for two teams or do they stick it to the Astros and the Rangers and give the advantage to all the west coast teams?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was driving at lunch time and they were playing a “classic” game on the radio. I got confused when Lance Beckmann was at bat and they started quoting AJ Hinch talking about pitcher Jon Garland.
    Then I realized that the Astros were playing the D’Backs with their manager Hinch.

    Like

  11. My first Astros game (first baseball game!) was at the Dome, with a friend who lived in Houston. Got me hooked. June or July 1997. I will look it up.

    My second Astros game was at the Dome. I took myself. After the game I care out into the perfectly circular car park from the wrong entrance. Couldn’t find my car. It was hilarious. I spent half an hour walking round and round. Had to wait until almost everyone had gone, then wandered around with the car remote blipping it endlessly until I saw some flashers come on. It was about an hour after the game finished!

    But MMP is so much nicer inside.

    Last time I was there, I saw Charlie Morton pummel the Blue Jays. Was marvellous.

    Although why they stop serving beer early irritates me no end.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The smoke from cigarettes in the Dome is what kept our family from going. Once they banned smoking, it was enjoyable. I have no recollection of the time frame.
    What I do remember so well was the magic night of UH vs UCLA. Elvin Hayes was so fantastic, even from what seemed like a mile away.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. San Jac coach had this to say about Zimmerman, who transferred to Mizzou.

    “Huge huge power bat with otherworldly pitch recognition. Ultra ultra intelligent and student of the game. He will be able to break down opposing pitching staffs before the advanced scouting directors.
    Only a bat, no position. Simply a DH who really is below avg runner. He is a major threat at the plate.”

    Just guessing that Woody Williams is the birdie who told our guys about him, when they discussed Luke Little.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. The inside dope brings so many things to think about this guy in relationship to the team, Alvarez, Seth Beer and what Zimmerman might mean for the future.

      Like

      • Sarge, I know that Beer was traded, but I was talking about the comparisons of Alvarez, Beer and Zimmerman from the standpoint of how guys who might rake at the plate and not be able to play a position, may have figured into the past and the future plans of the Astros. I probably could have included Chris Carter in there.

        Like

  14. Zanuda and Simon Davey – I have a lot of sympathy for your lost car stories. When I came back to Houston in 1989 I worked at Brown & Roots building at Bellaire and the Beltway. It is shaped like a bow tie, but basically symmetric. I parked on the same side each day but after a couple weeks they moved me to a new location catacorner from where I started. It so happens a tropical storm came in that day. I spent 20 minutes in sideways driving rain looking for a car that was on the other side of the building.

    Like

  15. My first trip to The Dome was in August of 1970. I loved the place, especially since there were no rain outs. Course we did get flooded out once. Four years later, in the late innings of a sparsely attended September game I snuck down to the front row as usual and met a guy named B.H. Foster who had season tickets. He had been the electrical contractor when the Dome got built if I remember correctly. Really a nice older guy. As we got to talking, he told me the two seats next to him were available. He even called Buddy Hancken, who was the season ticket manager in those days and put a good word in for me. Usually those seats are on a pretty long waiting list. Sure enough, Buddy set me up. Annually, I begged and borrowed to come up with the money for those seats. I saw and heard many cool things sitting right down there on the dugout, in those days probably 75 or so games a year. So I have a wonderful fondness for the place. By the way, those front row seats were 3.50 each in 1974.

    But I’d have to say that Minute Maid provides a far better baseball experience overall. And I like the downtown aspect of it. Stopping somewhere for a pre game bite to eat, especially where there is free valet parking and then walking to the park is far more user friendly than the Dome. I must have parked in that massive lot 2000 times over the years and still lost my car on a regular basis Zanuda. And I love baseball under the stars and real grass too. I like the quirkiness of the park, all those odd angles. And if you’re independently wealthy (those were the days) there are some quality food and beverage options. So yes, Minute Maid is the place I look forward to getting back to again, soon I hope.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I saw the other day was the anniversary of the game that Mike Schmidt hit the speaker in CF – 1974 I think. Were you there uncleknuckle? Don’t remember where I was sitting, but one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. In the paper the next day Cedeno was quoted as saying he thought it was gonna hit the flag, which of course was on the back wall of the Dome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thriller, Uncleknuckle does not quite remember at this point in time. But I know I was there for at least one fair ball speaker hit. Might have been Schmidt’s because I remember that soon after those outfield speakers were raised. I do recall several roof shots in the home plate vicinity. And I do remember a time when a ball stayed up there.

        Like

  16. Without looking at this link – who do you think had the best Astros season at 40 years of age or more.
    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/mlb-best-seasons-players-over-40

    Over the years the Astros have had a few folks that were 40 or more…..
    – The infamous – Carlos Beltran and Woody Williams
    – The surprising – John Franco and Davey Lopes
    – The Hall of Famers – Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio
    – The Almost Hall of Famers – Roger (he misremembered) Clemens, Tony Pena, Joe Niekro
    – The Workman – Danny Darwin and Doug Brocail
    – The Obscure – Bill Henry

    Well outside the guy who was named in the link (Mr. X) – probably Nolan Ryan would be the guy who had the next best season over 40 would have been Nolan’s ERA NL league leading 2.76 ERA (with an insane 8W-16L record) in 1987.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I doubt I’ll ever feel affection for mmp the way some of you do. There are too many places with poor site lines and they designed the stadium without thinking about the setting sun. Hooray – you can see Drayton’s office…real inspiring. The hill in CF is also a low point for the franchise in my opinion. The cherry on top was when that Padres catcher got jammed, broke his bat, and managed to hit a grand slam down the LF line. Also, the club boxes were poorly staffed and always ran out of beer/food too quickly. Maybe it got better under Crane. The dome was ugly as sin but a great place to view a game.

    Like

  18. I spent a lot -a WHOLE LOT – of time in my formative years watching the Astros in the Dome. Great memories, but after the first visit, when I stood wide-eyed at the spectacle – I have to say that I pretty much hated the stadium itself. Unless you got a seat behind home plate, the view of the field was not good – and the steps were so steep I always felt like I was going to fall off into a great abyss. The ball seemed muted off the bat.

    I was so happy when the new [well, it was once] stadium was built. I love the MMP experience. My only disappointment is that the seats are now too close together, too small, too hard, and too expensive to make me want to be there very often. Part of that is probably that I am by no means a wide-eyed lad anymore; creature comforts are a lot more important to me now, and I have to spend my own money on tickets rather than my dad’s.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to add to the MMP experience. I agree with Mr. Bill’s assessment of the seats, and my butt is not very wide, but I also do not like the loud, boom-box type, music played between innings. I feel as if a loud low-rider car is passing around me. That is NOT a pleasant experience. Bring back the organ type music that ball parks were famous for. I quit going to games for the reasons Bill listed and the one that I listed. I used to be a season ticket holder at that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was so excited today to have friended Jim Stevenson.

      Added another big dude 6’6/225 with a good arm to the Astros this morning, @JSprinkle47 a Junior out of Univ of Central Missouri. Congrats big man!
      — Jim Stevenson (@JimStevenson11) June 15, 2020

      [Jim Crane’s alma mater.]

      An aside, I asked him who he was most proud to have scouted?
      He said Laureano, James, Mayfield and Toro.
      I said we really screwed up with Laureano, huh?
      He said, Yes!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. One more added to the stable by Jim.

    Astros are getting a good one @OU_Baseball
    Jr. RHP Zack Matthews is signing with Houston. Had TJ surgery in May or would’ve been an easy Top 2-3 rounder. Huge arm, up to 98 earlier this spring with a quality SL. #Sooners.
    -Kendall Rogers

    I had a feeling HOU was going to add up to 10 undrafted.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am thrilled about the players the Astros drafted and about the players they signed after the draft.
    Headed to bed, but I want to say that it seems to me that the players and the owners may not want to play baseball this year.

    Like

  21. Manfred doesn’t sound too confident that there will be any baseball this summer. There are THOUSANDS of people who are out of work with no prospects of going back to work any time soon. They have families and with no job they’re totally broke.
    We have baseball players and owners who can’t come to terms for the MILLIONS the players want, and think they need all the money they are “owed”.
    Go look in the eye of those broke people and tell me how you feel. I don’t care if they don’t play at ALL. I’m done with all the drama. “Here’s a dime go call someone who gives a dam, because I sure dont”
    Can you tell I don’t feel good.😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you and Becky. Might as well cancel the season and let us try to watch the upcoming Tiddly Winks championships. They can have the football season too for all I care.
      On a different note I just happened to tune into to an ESPN special the other night about Fussball (Foosball) which was pretty interesting. I used to play many years ago and I knew several of the players that were highlighted. It was a fun time but I eventually lost interest as I moved on to other things. It was good to reminiscence though.

      Like

  22. There is so much for players and owners to consider with no agreement and Covid lurking out there.
    I think the players have way too many things in their way and the owners of the low income/attendance teams are not willing to risk a short season, with little chance of making the playoffs.
    Right now, I’m not sure enough people involved in major league baseball are motivated enough to make it happen.

    Like

  23. The hell with professional sports…people’s health takes first priority. If we need another lockdown then do it. We got cases spiking up and doesn’t help that on the few cases I have gone out people seem to have forgotten social distancing and wearing masks (never mind that it seems like many are in a real nasty mood and will let you know about it).

    I’m going to delicately say this as I don’t want a political discussion at all…everywhere else in the world it seems like all the talk about wars and fighting have been put on hold to fight the invisible enemy (as quite frankly it should be)…except here. We all need to get our s*** together, and right now professional sports is the least of our concerns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Billy C – I think the reason folks want some professional sports happening in empty stadiums is to help take their minds off for just a little while what we are facing.
      I tend to go to this particular site below, because it has such comprehensive information both nationally and state by state on COVID
      https://coronavirusbellcurve.com

      I don’t think it is political in any way as it pulls data from WHO, CDC, etc. Looking at it objectively – there is no nation-wide spike here. The daily cases may be up a small bit but there is a lot more testing going on. The daily deaths are going down steadily.
      There are always some places that seem to have hot spots at any one time and deserve additional attention. It would help everyone if we do social distancing and masks (which I see a lot where I have to shop). It would help everyone if we did not encourage large groups of people to gather together and protest
      That is just my two cents.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are correct about people being lax about social distancing and wearing masks. That attitude appears to be exceptionally rampant among people who laughed off the coronavirus as a prank or a platform to control others from the beginning.
      However, it is my belief that we should continue to what we always do on this baseball blog and that is to talk about baseball. It is an escape for me from all the other crap that is going on and that is a great reason for me to use this to keep from losing my sanity.
      Others may use this sight for other reasons and that is their privilege.
      Some may use it to vent about their frustrations and that, in moderation, is also welcome here.
      This place is a family. It will continue to be.

      Liked by 1 person

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