The Houston Astros have suspended a $15-million Minute Maid Park renovation that would have removed Tal’s Hill in center field to make way for new bar and food locations, and a premium group-seating area at field level.
The plans are still in place for 2017, but with the Astros’ surprising postseason appearance, the decision was made to pull the plug this offseason.
“Through the bidding process, we determined that the construction timelines to have the ballpark ready for Opening Day 2016 became too risky, and we decided it was in everyone’s best interest to postpone the renovation.” said Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan. “The playing field, including Tal’s Hill, will stay the same for the 2016 season. Other potential renovations to the ballpark are being evaluated, and we will announce future plans in the coming months.”
Tal’s Hill is named for former Astros exec Tal Smith, who pushed for the inclusion of an sloped center-field area when the ballpark was being designed. It’s a throwback to the days when there were no warning tracks and hills served a rudimentary purpose: Crosley Field famously featured a similar hill in the outfield, while Duffy’s Cliff was a 10-foot-high hill in front of Fenway Park’s Green Monster through 1933, named for former Red Sox outfielder Duffy Lewis. Similar field-of-play hills still exist: Isotopes Park opened with a similar hill in center field, while Finch Field, home of the High Point-Thomasville HiToms (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League) has an outfield hill dating back to the ballpark’s use as a MiLB facility.
The center-field wall would be moved from the current 436 feet to 409 feet, moving Minute Maid Park from the deepest center distance to the sixth-farthest in the American League. The renovations will result in a total of three new bar locations, four additional food locations and a premium group seating area at field level, creating the first and only field-level seating area available at Minute Maid Park.
Now that the team has developed into a contender, the structure of the changes may be overhauled and take place over two years instead of one.