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Volume 21 No. 26
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World Series title in hand, Houston Astros now get down to business for 2018

Freshly minted as World Series champions, the Houston Astros are now focused on boosting attendance and capitalizing on the first title in the franchise’s 56-year history.

Much like the Astros’ on-field product, the club’s business side is digging out of a deep hole inherited by owner Jim Crane in late 2011. Attendance fell to a low of 1.6 million the following year, representing barely half the yearly totals registered after Minute Maid Park first opened in 2000, and has since slowly climbed back to a level of 2.4 million this past season.

With about 13,000 full-season equivalents in its season-ticket base, the Astros are seeking to build that number beyond 16,000 in 2018 toward a longer-term goal of at least 20,000 full-season equivalents per year.

“This was a big year of validation for us,” said Astros President Reid Ryan. “Everything we said we were going to do with the club, with payroll, with the stadium and so forth, we did. So now we look to build off of that.”

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The club aims to build its season-ticket base and renew several of its sponsors.
During the home World Series games at Minute Maid Park, the club set up pop-up season-ticket booths along the concourses to take new registrations and deposits. Over the summer, the club began to send out invoices for 2018 season tickets, with a new row-based pricing strategy, particularly for its prime dugout sections. About half of the club’s season-ticket accounts saw a nominal price increase for next year, with some of those prime seats increasing by as much as 80 percent.

The Astros entered the 2017 season with a franchise-record payroll of $124 million, added to that midseason with the acquisition of pitcher Justin Verlander, and will likely surpass $140 million in 2018 payroll.

On the sponsorship front, the Astros’ efforts are fronted by their prominent Community Leaders program, which began in 2012 soon after Crane’s arrival and includes a commitment to developing youth baseball and softball fields in the Houston area.

The program, which showcases its partners in signs above the left-field wall at Minute Maid Park, this past season added energy company Cheniere and chemical company LyondellBasell to the existing group of 10 companies. Several of those firms are up for renewal this offseason, and Ryan said it is part of a deliberately staggered approach.

“We’ve purposely split that program on time windows between shorter-term and longer-term deals, so we’re looking forward to getting into those renewals we have coming up this year,” Ryan said.

The Astros went 18-3 at home, including 8-1 in the postseason, following the arrival of Hurricane Harvey in late August, which heavily damaged the metro Houston area. The club served as a powerful civic balm on its way to the title.

“There’s no question we’ve been a welcome distraction, and it’s obviously been a really tough eight to 10 weeks around here,” Ryan said. “But we’ve also fed directly off the energy of our crowds and this town.”