This may be news to anyone who has only attended major league baseball games in Houston, but you aren't required to buy stadium food and drink at any of the other 29 stadiums in the United States. The Astros are the only team in baseball that bars their fans from bringing a cheese sandwich or a piece of fruit with them to a game.
That's pretty surprising, although inane stadium policies seem to be Houston's stock in trade. From personal experience, you should know that if you should purchase a beer on one level of Minute Maid Park you are not permitted to bring said beer with you to your seat on a different level. Attempts to figure out why that's the case via conversation with the guard stopping you from the stairwell will result in splitting headaches.
Anyway, the food policy is ridiculous enough on its face. What makes it something worth getting mad about is the way the Astros try to explain the policy. Owner Drayton McLane said that banning outside food "has been kind of a tradition in Houston." There is a long list of things that extended years longer than they should have because they were kind of a tradition. Outside food at baseball games isn't as noxious as some of the other things on that list, but it is still a pretty crappy excuse.
As is the one offered by the team's president of business operations.
"Our financial model, dating back to the Astrodome, was dependent on a number of revenue areas, including food and beverage,” Pam Gardner said in an e-mail to the Houston Chronicle. “We elected to make our appeal to fans in the form of a $7 (for adults) and $1 ticket (for children) every day. I don’t think you will find many teams offering a $1 ticket."
You will, however, find 19 teams that offer lower average ticket prices than the Astros, all of whom are somehow able to make their financial model work while still allowing parents to bring along a juice box for their kids instead of forcing them to buy a $4.25 soft drink.
Gardner also claims that their food services deal with Aramark gives the company exclusive rights to food and beverage in the stadium. Aramark has contracts at 14 other ballparks, and, as you well know by now, all of them allow for outside food.
Other teams have tried this in the past, usually when opening a new stadium, but all of them relented in the face of criticism. It's great that the Chronicle wrote this article, but one wonders where this article has been in the decade since Minute Maid Park opened its doors. Better late than never on the article and, hopefully, on the end of the policy.