When Minute Maid Park (formerly known as Enron Field) first opened, the Astros would open the building's retractable roof as soon as the hot Houston sun disappeared beyond the horizon. That tradition stopped in 2005 for an unknown reason, but president of business operations Reid Ryan wants the team to get back to playing more games with the roof open. Courtesy of MLB.com's Brian McTaggart:
"At this point, we're talking about it," Ryan said. "We haven't fully gotten to the bottom of why it [stopped], and we're not fully prepared to start to roll out what our recommendation will be. But we are thinking about it, and we're getting input."
"In a nutshell, what I would personally like to see is us to be able to open the roof late in the game when the weather is appealing or was comfortable enough that fans would enjoy it," Ryan said. "The one thing we know from our research -- and we surveyed fans extensively this year -- is people want to see the roof open more. They like the feel of outdoor baseball. So what is that [optimum] temperature? What is the [right] wind condition? What are the chances of rain? We're still digging into all that -- and once we get it, then we'll put it out there."
"Baseball is a game that's played outside. Just look at the past couple of World Series and you could see that. So we don't want to do anything to take away from the pleasure of the fans. We don't want to make it harder on the players. What we want to do is take this wonderful asset we have in a retractable roof and be able to open it when the conditions present themselves -- so people can enjoy one of the most beautiful stadiums in baseball."
The roof was open for only 14 of the Astros' 81 home games last year -- most of those 14 were in April -- because of the heat and humidity. The roof currently closes for rain, the threat of rain, and various temperature and wind levels. The home team decides whether to open the roof and it can only be closed in-game if it starts raining. It can be re-opened "when the climatic environment has reached a level where fans will be comfortable."
The main sticking point seems to be time -- MLB rules say the roof can only be opened between innings, but the Minute Maid Park roof needs 13 minutes to open. The opposing manager would also have to agree to opening the roof, otherwise he could play the game under protest. Apparently the rules changed at some point between 2005 and now. Either that or MLB didn't care back before 2005.
Summers in Texas are brutal, so the retractable roof and the air-conditioning it houses are a wonderful luxury for the Astros. That said, baseball outside is way better than baseball inside -- fans agree based on the survey the team conducted, according to Ryan -- so I hope the club can figure out a way to increase the number of open-roof innings they play each season. Once the sun goes down and the night breeze is blowing, open that sucker up.