Astros fans will be able to "bring their own food and water to games this season, reversing a long-standing ban that had given Minute Maid Park a notorious distinction among major league ballparks," according to Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. New Astros Owner Jim Crane and CEO George Postolos said that food "was the most discussed issue in their meetings with season-ticket holders." Crane yesterday unveiled "a package of fan-friendly measures," announcing that some ticket prices "will fall, and $5 domestic beer will be sold throughout the ballpark." Season-ticket holders, "both full-season and 27-game packages, will receive a 5 percent rebate in the form of a gift card to be used at the ballpark if they renew by Jan. 31." Other possible transformations "include new uniforms and logos, changes to the playing field and 'Tal’s Hill' in center field, and even a re-evaluation of the name 'Astros.'" Crane said of the potential name change, "We’re taking a look at everything. We’re going to do a study on it. We’re going to study the information, both from our fans and from all sorts of marketing people. I’m not saying we’re going to change. We haven’t made a decision. If the change is going to come, it’s going to come next year.” Crane said that any "changes in uniform -- or in team name -- must be submitted by the start of the 2012 season on April 6" to be processed for '13. Crane and the marketing department hope that the immediate changes will "stem the loss of a fan base that was turning out 37,289 per game in 2007 and 25,519 in 2011 amid the worst season in franchise history" (CHRON.com, 1/23).
READY FOR LIFTOFF? The Astros name "is a nod to Houston's role in the space program as the site of NASA's mission Control." Aerospace "is a major industry in the metropolitan area, but now that the space shuttle program has ended, the city may be less likely to base its identity on the space program" (AP, 1/23). In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote while Crane "hit a ground-rule double with the ticket-price reduction -- some 5,000 seats will be cheaper this year -- he struck out looking by admitting the team is willing to consider changing its name." Solomon: "Please allow me to save you the money all sorts of marketing people will charge you to 'do a study on it.' I can assure you those who have supported the Astros over their 50 years in Houston (47 with the name Astros) are not ready to kiss their Astros goodbye. ... Changing the Astros name to anything would tick off true Astros fans to the highest of tickstivity" (CHRON.com, 1/23).