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|| News Item: Posted 2000-07-28

Enron: 'Stros New Home
By Robert Seale, The Sporting News

Photo by
(Editor's note: One in a continuing series on stadiums and arenas.)

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining too much here, I have this fear that God might say, "Oh yeah, well I'll give you something to cry about!" KABLAAM! and with a bolt of lightning I'll be relegated to shooting Astros games in the Astrodome again. Enron is a great park for fans, and it's definitely better for photographers than the Dome, but it still has its share of problems.

The architects and designers did a good thing by creating four photo boxes: inside 1st, outside 1st, and inside 3rd and outside 3rd. This is wonderful compared to the Dome, where owner Drayton McClane's luxury boxes gradually ate up all the inside positions until there were none left for still shooters.

Here's what sucks: broadcast TV guys were supposed to utilize the back row and stills were to be on the front row in all the boxes, but some dumbass contractor didn't build the pit deep enough, poured both levels in concrete (so the height cannot be adjusted) and brought the seats too far down.

The result: TV guys in the outside pits built platforms that take up most of the outside positions (completely unnecessary), and they took the first row positions in the inside boxes. So now there is limited room in the outside pits and the inside ones require you to sit on a stool like a hunchback so as notto upset the fans behind you. It works ok, as long as there aren't too many people - but what a boneheaded thing to do to a shiny new ballpark.

There are also handicapped elevators between the dugout and the inside pits ON BOTH SIDES. This kills any reaction shots in the dugout and it blocks your view of LF or RF depending on what side you are on. I guess they were anticipating the Astros having a season like this and they figured we needed the handicapped access for our players. There is elevator access directly to the field, (with no steps) directly behind home plate so I'm not sure why the additional elevators were deemed necessary.

The roof is supposed to stay closed on Enron for most of the year (guess who has the contract for the utilities (electricity) to power the air guessed it, Enron!) - so forget about shooting chrome unless you have a game in April or late September. Inside during a day game the light is 500/2.8 ISO 800 and it loses about half a stop at night. The cover of the roof is not translucent (as it should be) but the left field wall is mostly glass so it kicks up the light slightly during the daytime.

Now enough of my complaining, and on to the helpful stuff. From IAH, take 59 south to the Hamilton St. exit. Your best bet is to park in one of the $5.oo lots next to the George R. Brown Convention Center just two blocks south of Enron.

Enter at the 3rd base entrance and take a right onto the main concourse. The press box entrance will be on your left. An elevator inside will take you to the field level or to the "BP" or broadcast press level, which is where the pre-game food is. Once you get off the elevator at field level, you can make a left to the field, or a right to the AP Darkroom. Inside the darkroom there are separate darkrooms for Reuters, AP, and the Houston Chronicle, along with a common lobby-type area where photographers can store their cases.

Architecturally, the park is very cool. It is built next to "Union Station", an old train station, and the lobby of the old building was retained as an entrance for fans through left field. There is a real train that runs on tracks next to the roof panels, and the train moves and makes whistles during home runs.

After the game, photographers often get together and retire to "Spanish Flowers" a 24-hr Mexican Food joint located on North Main, just north of downtown in the Heights.

(Robert Seale is a staff photographer with The Sporting News based in Houston.)

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