After a 2020 that saw no fans cross the turnstiles at Minute Maid Park, the Astros are back to hosting a nearly full stadium again in 2021. Since expanding to full capacity last month, the team has already seen several crowds in excess of 30,000 (41,000 is a sellout at Minute Maid). The return of these crowds is important for downtown businesses that were devastated by the pandemic over the past year.
Patrick Jankowski, senior VP of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, says businesses that rely on events like Astros games have been waiting for this. "Downtown restaurants and bars were the hardest hit of all the restaurants and bars in the region," he tells KTRH. "First, they lost daytime workers when everyone was told to stay home, and then they lost the nighttime party crowds when sporting events, bars and restaurants shut down."
The Houston economy has been showing signs of recovery for months now, but Jankowski sees the return of Astros games as an important step. "The crowds and people downtown, especially at Minute Maid Park, is one sign that we're further along in the recovery," he says. "We're getting our lives back, we're finally getting back to normal."
"So far, in Houston we've actually recouped about 58 percent of the jobs that were lost (during the pandemic), and we've recouped probably about 85 to 90 percent of the jobs we lost in restaurants and bars," Jankowski continues.
Ultimately for Houstonians, rooting for the Astros this summer also means rooting for local businesses. "The more victories they can pile up, the more home runs they can hit, the more people are going to be turning out to watch the Astros play, and that means people are going to be hitting the restaurants before the game and the bars afterwards," says Jankowski. "So a lot of the success of downtown will depend upon the success of the Astros."