New Astros owner mulls name change

HOUSTON -- New Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is considering changing the name of the franchise as well as its uniforms.

Crane said Monday the team will conduct a study to decide whether or not to switch the name.

"We're going to study the information both from the fans and from all sorts of marketing people," Crane said. "I'm not saying we're going to change. We haven't made the decision yet whether we're going to change."

The team was established in 1962 as the Colt .45s and has been called the Astros since 1965 when it was changed to coincide with the move to the Astrodome.

Crane said switching uniforms is something they are "highly considering." Any changes wouldn't happen until 2013 when Houston makes the move from the National League to the American League.

"We had the Colt .45s and everybody liked that one," Crane said. "So you can imagine how upset they were when we switched that. What you get when you look at the fan base is the older we get and I'm old, you don't like to change. But the younger fans are very receptive to change and the older ones aren't, so that's what we saw with the American League."

Crane's comments came at an event to announce several fan initiatives. The biggest move is a 5 percent rebate on full-season and 27-game season ticket accounts that are renewed by Jan. 31. The cheapest at the park will be cut from $7 to $5. Children's tickets in the lowest-priced sections will remain $1.

They also have a new $35 ticket located on the club level that includes a $15 credit for food, beverages and retail items. These tickets cost $46 last season and did not include any food or retail credit.

The Astros will also allow fans to bring water and a small amount of food inside the stadium.

Crane and his staff met with many fans before deciding on these initiatives. He has been looking into ways to improve the team, which finished a franchise-worst 56-106 last season, and the fan experience since the sale from Drayton McLane was completed in late November.

"We felt that with the new ownership and the way the team performed in the last couple of years that we needed to step forward and try to get the interest back with the fans," he said.

"We're making some very positive moves to put a better product on the field, and we wanted to get people in the ballpark to experience that."

The Astros name is a nod to Houston's role in the space program as the site of NASA's Mission Control. Aerospace is a major industry in the metropolitan area, but now that the space shuttle program has ended, the city may be less likely to base its identity on the space program.

Still, Crane wanted to make clear that no decisions have been made yet.

"We haven't said we're going to do that, so don't jump to any conclusions," he said of a possible name change. "Sometimes change is good."

He said they haven't hired a marketing firm yet, but they are considering doing that soon. Crane said they must inform the league by the beginning of the season if they are going to make a change. They wouldn't be allowed to announce the new name or release the logos until the season is over.

"Baseball has to approve all of those logos and all of those changes and there is a lot of expense to it. We've got signs here and if we do change it, it's going to be expensive," Crane said.

The Astros have had several uniform styles in their history, including the shooting star jerseys and the now infamous rainbow ones. They've had their current uniforms, which include road grays and primarily home reds since 2000. They also have alternate home white and white with black pinstriped jerseys.

Crane said some past uniforms could be incorporated into a new design.

"We've been studying the uniforms and we think there are some good ideas with the past," he said. "We have had baseball's people in to talk to them about what needs to be done. We're trying to follow the proper protocol. They have very tight rules. We're going to get some fan input together and put a study group together."