Hey Drayton: Stop Treating Astros Fans Like Idiots

The Chron did a story yesterday on the concession policies of the Houston Astros. The important thing to emerge from the story is that the Astros are the only team in major league baseball that does not allow fans to bring in their own food or drinks. That's right, out of 30 teams in the majors, 29 teams, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs, allow their fans to bring in their own food and bypass the overpriced stadium concessions.

The Astros claim that this allows them to keep their ticket prices low. But when you look at the Team Marketing Report for April of 2009, you can't help but notice that, even with this concessions policy, the Astros still charge more than the major-league average, and that their ticket prices are still among the highest in the majors. So if Drayton McLane thinks he's doing the fans a favor, maybe he ought to start rethinking things a bit.

The Astros also place the blame on Aramark. The Astros claim that their relationship with Aramark is premised on exclusivity of food and beverages. But seeing as how Aramark provides concession services for many MLB teams, you've got to question this assertion seeing as how the Astros seem to be the only team stuck with exclusivity.  

Drayton also claims that Houston tradition demands that food must only be purchased inside the stadium. And if there's a stupider excuse, I can't think of one. I've traveled across the country, and I've been to a majority of MLB's stadiums. And I'll tell you about tradition. Tradition is fans gathering on the streets around Camden Yards in Baltimore and purchasing cheap-but-excellent food and bringing them into the stadium. Tradition is a New York Yankee fan sharing home-roasted peanuts with a Boston Red Sox fan during a game at Yankee Stadium. Tradition means that with excellent food options available just outside the gates the in-stadium vendor must do a better job of providing not only multiple food options, but also providing high-quality food options.

The fan experience at Minute Maid Park is the worst that I've experienced. The food is awful and overpriced. Parking is inconvenient and expensive, and cheap public transit is nearly non-existent. Once in your seat you're constantly blasted with way too loud music, and the sound system makes the fantastic Bob Ford nearly unintelligible. If you get stuck in a seat up by the roof, you're in for a night of extreme heat because there's no other place for the hot air to go. And there's the awful product on the field.

Drayton McLane often talks about the fans, but as always, his actions don't back up his words. The low-priced tickets are actually among the highest in baseball. The vendor who demands exclusivity apparently only demands that privilege from the Astros because it provides the same services to other stadiums without having exclusivity.  

McLane has often treated the fans as if they're idiots. It's time for this to stop.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal