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Wednesday, June 5
Name that park: For Astros, it's Minute Maid

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Punctuated by fireworks and a locomotive steaming across its outfield track carting oranges, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane re-christened the Astros' stadium Minute Maid Park on Wednesday.

The Minute Maid Co. is based in Houston and since 1960 has been a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co.

"They are a very stable company and this was a big part of our decision," McLane said. "They have the values and commitment to the public but they also have great financial security."

McLane said the deal was for 28 years for a price exceeding $100 million.

The Astros' new stadium opened in 2000 as Enron Field but McLane bought out the 30-year, $100 million naming rights deal in February and quickly removed hundreds of signs bearing the failed energy trading giant's name.

Since buying out Enron, the stadium had been called Astros Field.

New signage will go up quickly. The Astros' begin a six-game homestand Monday starting with the Chicago Cubs, and McLane said temporary signage would be in place.

"To do it the way it should be done will take some time, but I expect we'll have the new signage in place in about two months," McLane said.

The stadium is built on the site of the old Union Station train depot and the Astros kept that theme in constructing the stadium, including a replica locomotive that tooted out a welcome to the new name with a Minute Maid emblem on its side.

"This is as exciting as a Jeff Bagwell home run," McLane said.

It gives baseball a second park with a juice company sponsor. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays play in Tropicana Field, sponsored by Florida-based Tropicana Products Inc., a division of Coca-Cola rival PepsiCo.

Tropicana is the nation's largest juice maker. Minute Maid is No. 2.

"We felt it was time to raise the visibility of Minute Maid in our own hometown," said Don Knauss, president and CEO of Minute Maid of North America.

The contract includes naming rights for the stadium, continued rights to sell Minute Maid juices at the ballpark and the Minute Maid Squeeze Play, a play area for children, that already was in place.

The Astros had listened to proposals from a number of other companies, including Conoco Inc., Landry's Seafood Restaurants Inc., and Gallery Furniture, all based in Houston.

The Astros are not alone in shuffling stadium names.

The Baltimore Ravens renamed their field Ravens Stadium after its former corporate sponsor, PSINet went bankrupt.

In Philadelphia, the home of the NHL Flyers and NBA 76ers soon will get its third name since the arena opened in 1996.

On Monday, the Eagles announced that their new stadium, opening in August 2003, will be called Lincoln Financial Field. On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy judge ended Adelphia's 15-year stadium naming rights deal with the Tennessee Titans that was signed in 1999.

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