The Sugar Land Skeeters’ new venture with the Houston Astros as their top minor league affiliate was a surprise to some in the Houston area, but those close to the ownership circles of both franchises knew they were a match made in baseball heaven.
“We started talking about Sugar Land being our Triple-A affiliate more than five years ago,” said Giles Kibbe, the Astros’ senior vice president and general counsel. “We were just looking for the right opportunity to make that happen.”
Kibbe said Astros owner Jim Crane made it a point of emphasis to have an ownership stake in the team’s Triple-A affiliate to match what the organization had done with its Double-A team, the Corpus Christi Hooks, and its Single-A team, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And with just 22 miles separating the Astros and Skeeters’ home ballparks, as opposed to the 165 miles that separated the Astros from their old Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, the location was considered a big plus for both parties.
The Skeeters, who had been an independent minor league team since their inaugural season in 2012, make their Triple-A home debut at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Constellation Field in Sugar Land. It’s the start of a 12-game homestand for the Skeeters, who opened their first season as an Astros’ affiliate with a 12-game road trip.
“We felt like the proximity to Minute Maid Park would be tremendous for our baseball ops department to really put some eyes on our Triple-A players,” Kibbe said. “We felt like it would give our coaching staff a better opportunity to work together between Triple-A and major league staff. So it’s something that we’ve always wanted.”
The acquisition agreement, which was approved by the Sugar Land City Council on April 20, included the Astros and the City of Sugar Land partnering on a lease extension which is scheduled to keep the Skeeters at Constellation Field through at least the 2045 season.
The Zlotnik family has owned the Skeeters since the franchise’s inception and maintains an ownership stake in the team as part of its partnership with the Astros.
Kibbe said Sugar Land Assistant City Manager Jennifer May was instrumental in the organization’s agreement with the city.
During a May 11 virtual event hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, May said the city has always had grand ambitions for Constellation Field and the Skeeters, and it was more than just an amenity.
“This stadium, from the beginning, was part of a strategy to grow and expand our economic base,” May said. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t just the premier suburb for a period of time in the Houston region. We really wanted to be resilient and sustainable long term.”
May said a feasibility study conducted by the city almost 10 years ago projects a big increase in attendance. She also expects to see “almost a doubling” in the economic benefit the Skeeters will bring to the city, including hotel stays, merchandise and development around the stadium, as well as “community and philanthropic support.”
Creighton Kahoalii, the Astros’ senior vice president who oversees affiliate business operations, said the club will “continue to be active in Sugar Land and the Fort Bend community” through the Astros Foundation.