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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK
Juicy new name for Enron stadium
Houston's Minute Maid Park
The Houston Astros newly named Minute Maid Park

To some it may be the most ridiculous name ever imposed upon a city landmark.

Nevertheless, Houston officials have renamed their newly built baseball facility Minute Maid Park, after a popular brand of orange juice sold throughout the US.

Ken and Linda Lay's brick outside Houston's Minute Maid Park
Remnants of the former sponsor remain

In securing the naming rights to the three-year-old ballpark, Minute Maid agreed to pay the city's baseball team more than $100m (68.5m) over three decades.

The newly christened stadium is home to the Houston Astros and was the object of a lawsuit earlier this year.

Three years ago, the team signed a 30-year, $100m deal with failed Enron Corp for the naming rights to the 40,000-seat sports facility.

However, in the wake of the scandal that enveloped the former energy-trading giant, forcing it to file bankruptcy in December, Astros officials wanted to disassociate themselves from Enron and its woes.

In a February court settlement, the Astros agreed to pay Enron $2.1m to remove its name from the ballpark, briefly renaming it Astros Field.

Ap-peel-ing deal

Stadium officials then moved speedily to sponge off any reference to Enron, going as far as to tape over the firm's name on a clock face in preparation for the first game of the season.

Houston street sign
"Enron" still adorns Houston street signs
Astros officials acted much more quickly than the city of Houston, whose streets signs and maps still refer to the complex as Enron Field.

Since winning its court case, the ball club had been slow to name a new corporate sponsor, taking its time to find a firm that met its criteria, which included financial stability and a connection to the Houston community.

In naming Minute Maid, which has its headquarters in the south Texas city, Astros owner Drayton McLane said, "This was an important decision for the Astros - to have a company that represents the values... but also has great financial stability."

The Astros held discussions with as many as 10 different firms in the hopes of getting someone to sign up to the $112m deal, which granted the winner naming rights for the next 28 years.

Minute Maid is a unit of beverage giant Coca-Cola and has no problem bringing the deep pockets the Astros sought.

Juicy title

The naming deal represents the first such venture for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, which also markets Dr Pepper, Schweppes and Barq's brands of soft drinks.

Astros fans at the club's ticket window at Minute Maid Park
Fans have yet to voice their opinion on the name
"This is the first time the Coca-Cola Company has allowed one of its brands to be put on a stadium," said Minute Maid president Donald Knauss.

"So, it's big news for our organisation across the world," he said.

The pact also gives Coca-Cola sole rights to sell its beverages throughout the complex, in what are known as "pouring rights".

While the name, Minute Maid, is a bit unwieldy, the deal hardly represents the first by a beverage firm.

Denver is home to both a baseball field named after Coors, a popular beer brand, and the Pepsi Center, named after the US' number two cola-flavoured carbonated drink.

In Tampa, Florida, the local baseball team plays in Tropicana Field, named after the US' largest orange-juice maker Tropicana Products, which is owned by PepsiCo.

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