If you open it, they will come. After limiting Minute Maid Park to 50% capacity for their first three homestands, the Astros are opening the park to full capacity for the remainder of the season. The announcement comes after the CDC and Major League Baseball relaxed COVID-19 pandemic protocols as vaccinations rise and virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped to nearly one-year lows.
Astros games are not the first sporting event in Texas, or even in Houston, to welcome fans to full capacity since the pandemic. The Texas Rangers allowed a full crowd at their home opener last month, and have since gone to full capacity. In Houston, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to full capacity this month with a sold-out show at Toyota Center.
This marks the first time Minute Maid Park is open to full capacity since the 2019 season. "I think you're really going to feel it, you're really going to see the difference watching on TV or listening on the radio," says Chris Gordy with SportsTalk 790. "You're really going to start to notice that big difference with full capacity."
The Astros' move to full capacity is part of a trend across the major leagues after the Rangers were the first to do so. "I think most of the owners are looking at all the lost revenue they had last year and saying look, where's the balance between public safety and hey, we're losing a lot of money in our industry," says Gordy. "So it's time to ramp this back up, do it safely, but we've got to start making that revenue again."
Indeed, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred estimated that teams lost about three billion dollars last season on operations due to playing in empty ballparks.
For the Astros, the move to full capacity also comes in time for one of their biggest homestands of the season---versus the defending World Series Champion Dodgers, the NL West-leading San Diego Padres, and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. "The timing just works out really well for the Astros, that they're going to have some really good teams coming in here," says Gordy. "And I'm sure the ticket prices may tick up a little bit."