One of the most beautiful and fan friendly college ballparks in America can be found in Houston, Texas on the campus of Rice University. Constructed in 2000, Reckling Park is home to a perennial power, the Rice Owls baseball team. With a grand majority of chairback seats throughout the seating areas and grass berm in the outfield, the park provides a high level of comfort to fans as they cheer on the Owls to yet another berth into the Division I college baseball postseason. It’s hard to find a better local community around the stadium than Rice Village and the Hermann Park Conservancy. Overall, the experience at Reckling Park is one that any college baseball fan should put on their stadium journey bucket list.
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Reckling Park features a good variety of concession options throughout the ballpark. There are three locations run by Prince's Hamburgers. Prince's is a popular burger joint in the area and the self-proclaimed "Hometown Burger" of Houston. The two primary stands are under the concourse of the main grandstand and this is where your greatest variety of options will be. Prince's offers up the following primary options: hamburgers/cheeseburgers ($7.50), hot dogs ($4), chili cheese hot dog ($6), chicken breast sandwich ($7.50), fried chicken breast sandwich ($7.50), chicken fried steak sandwich ($7.50), corn dogs ($4.50), chicken tender basket ($7.50), pizza ($7.50), Frito pie ($4.50), nachos ($4), and super nachos ($6). The best deal on the menu is the cheeseburger basket which includes fries for $10. Initially, I was intrigued by the chicken fried steak sandwich but the concessions employee at the window talked me out of it and into either the cheeseburger or fried chicken sandwich. Side items include French fries ($3.50), chili cheese fries ($4.50), popcorn ($3.50-$5), peanuts ($4), candy ($3.50), sunflower seeds ($4), cracker jacks ($4), pretzels ($4), funnel cakes ($5), and pickles ($3.50).
Drink options are highlighted by Coca-Cola fountain sodas ($3.50-$5), bottled Dasani water ($3.50), lemonade ($4), and frozen lemonade ($4). There's also a Kona Ice truck which offers several flavors of shaved ice ranging from $3 - $5. This stop certainly comes in handy on hot Houston days. Beer is available but only in an area located down the third baseline known as "The Roost". In this area, fans can enjoy favorite options from Prince's under the tent as well as select beers. Once you have a beer poured though, don't plan on leaving since you'll be restricted to that area for the game. That's not to say remaining in the area is bad thing because it's a pretty cozy corner of the stadium that includes a small set of bleachers, shade from the Houston heat, and room to hang over the foul line fence. Reckling Park concession stands accept major credit cards and there's an ATM on site just in case you need it.
Reckling Park is located on the beautiful campus of Rice University next to Houston's Medical Center. The Owls have called the current stadium home since construction in 2000. Prior to this, Rice baseball played at Cameron Park between 1978-1999 which was located at the same campus site but was demolished to make way for the new stadium. Reckling Park features a seating capacity of 6,193 and a grand majority of these seats (3,700+) are chairbacks. Many of the chairback seats include cupholders. This provides for a very comfortable viewing experience. Bleacher seats are located down the right field foul line as well as beyond left center field on top of the grassy berm. A small strip of bleacher seats are also located down the left field foul line inside an area known as "The Roost" which includes covered picnic table seating. An overhang covering provides shade for much of the seating area in the main grandstand. The main aisle running through the grandstand is lined by an old fashioned nice brick wall.
Reckling features a natural Bermuda grass field with a small strip of artificial turf behind the homeplate area. Though artificial turf in this location is nothing new for college baseball ballparks, Rice could do a better job of blending in the color of the turf with the surrounding natural grass. The turf is pretty dirty from excessive wear of not being adequately cleaned. Also, a bright green carpet style turf covers the warning track in front of both dugouts and recedes down the dugout stairs. Though mentioned, these are minor eyesores in an otherwise beautiful ballpark. A padded green wall lines the outfield and green chainlinked fencing runs from dugout to outfield. The same padded wall lines the backstop behind homeplate. The scoreboard at Reckling Park is located above the right center field wall and includes a large video board. The field dimensions are as follows: 330 feet down the right/left field lines, 375 in the power alleys, and 400 to center.
Skyscrapers from the Medical Center dominate the landscape view beyond the outfield wall with a small patch of trees between the ballpark and buildings. As you approach the park, you'll enter through Audrey Moody Ley Plaza which provides an exceptional landscape outside the stadium. There's a pretty neat set of statues of two kids playing catch in the plaza. The outer wall of the stadium is an old-school brick design and foreshadows the upcoming traditional baseball experience inside.
Crowds are generally very strong and average around 3,200 per game. Fans are engaged in the game and have a high baseball IQ (which goes without saying since we're talking about elite private school folks here). There's just the right amount of promotions to keep the crowd entertained without driving baseball purists crazy. The video scoreboard is utilized for fun videos and the marketing department conducts various activities between the innings.
The area around the ballpark is known as Rice Village and includes a wealth of restaurants, shops, and attractions within walking distance. The area is one of the top destinations for Houston nightlife and leisure. A walk around the campus is definitely in store and there's a great jogging track wrapping around the university. This will give you a good view of the campus buildings and environment. A must stop while in the area is Ruggles Café Bakery. There are several great options here but my favorite dish is the fish tacos. After your meal, grab one of their delicious desserts and a coffee. Another area favorite is Hungry's Café and Bistro, conveniently located across the street from Ruggles. A great pub for fish and chips and drinks is Baker St Pub and Grill. Across from Baker St is The Gingerman, a bar offering a great atmosphere and a large beer selection.
There's a plethora of attractions in and around the Houston area. However, within walking distance of Rice is Hermann Park, a massive area that includes the Gibbs and Jones Reflection Pool, McGovern Lake, the Hermann Park Railroad, several gardens and jogging trails as well as the Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Hermann Park Golf Course. You won't have to leave the surrounding area around Rice University to have a great time. Additionally, take a stroll through Rice Village whether it's for restaurants, pubs, or shopping. Hotel ZaZa is an exquisite hotel located just a couple of minutes from the campus and along the Metro Rail line. This will give you an amazingly comfortable stay as well as easy access to and from the ballpark and other Houston area attractions.
Rice generally has an average attendance of around 3,200 which consistently placed them inside the top 15 nationwide. This makes for a pretty fun atmosphere. There are plenty of long-time fans in the stands which have a lifetime of baseball knowledge along with families, students, and alums. Rice crowds draw in more than just the university community with many area supporters attending games that don't really have a connection to the school.
Being located near a major city has its benefits and issues. There's no doubt that one of the issues for Rice baseball could be getting to the stadium. If you're traveling on any of the major interstates or highways during the weekdays, expect to hit some stop-and-go traffic. A recommendation that could save you a headache is to utilize the Metro Rail. If you book a room at Hotel ZaZa (as recommended above) you'll have easy access to the rail from the building and there's a stop right next to the Rice campus. For a $1.25, you can avoid the stress of Houston traffic. If you don't utilize the rail, this score will be much lower as you battle your way through gridlock (though the weekends usually aren't as bad).
Considering that Reckling is located adjacent to Rice Stadium (home of Rice football), there's plenty of stadium parking in the area. As you make your way to the stadium you do so through the spacious Audrey Moody Ley Plaza. There are ticket booths located on both sides of the gates and the lines move pretty quick. You'll have no problem getting through the gate. Once inside, there's a main concourse that runs under the grandstand and a single main entrance into the seating area which is directly ahead. Other access points are at the end of both sides of the grandstand. The concourse and other entrances are very spacious and allow for easy access. The seating aisles are separated so that fans can go up one side and down the other without creating a bottleneck. The restrooms are clean and large enough for most games but could be a bit tight at capacity crowds.
Tickets for Rice baseball start at $10 for bleacher/berm seating and go up to $18 for the seats under the awning in front of the pressbox. Though that's not the lowest priced college baseball ticket in town, the overall experience makes it worth every dollar. Considering the state of the local major league franchise, you could arguably say a Rice baseball game at Reckling Park is the best baseball environment in Houston. The concession options are a bit overpriced (as most college ballpark concessions are), but the quality is pretty good for the price. Prince's makes a good hamburger and while the quality isn't the same at the ballpark as at the restaurant, it's still a good burger. Parking is free which is a plus.
Every great live sports experience is highlighted by certain 'extra' features which are unique compared to other venues or make the overall experience memorable. For Rice baseball at Reckling Park, be sure to consider the following during your stadium experience:
• The walk through the Audrey Moody Ley Plaza to the stadium provides a great landscape view. The stadium exterior around the entrance is a pretty neat sight.
• Another great landscape view is the Medical Center skyline beyond the outfield wall. There's some pretty excellent skyscraper architecture in view from your seats.
• The easy access provided by the Metro Rail is another plus. It's a great option for the local fans and those visiting fans who grab a hotel along the line will benefit as well.
• There's plenty of space around the stadium for kids to run wild. You'll find several playing catch or throwing a tennis ball against a wall. It's a pretty great family atmosphere.
Built in 2000 to replace Cameron Field, Reckling Park is another beautiful college ballyard. Located just off University Boulevard at Stockton, the stadium is near a couple of visitor parking lots, but you can leave the car in a residential neighborhood just a short walk away and thus avoid any charges. Of course, the train is a good option as well.
Tickets range from $18 for the gold seats down to $10 for general admission which gets you the berm or a small set of bleachers. The roof here is quite small and only covers the last two rows in the sections behind home plate, so keep that in mind if you want to avoid a nasty sunburn. Seats there are $14 and are called Concourse 2.
Behind the left field fence lies the Texas Medical Center, a collection of hospitals and other facilities that helps keep Houston as a top medical tourism destination.
Down the left field line is The Roost, a small covered picnic area with food and beverages, including beer. I am not sure why some college ballparks sell beer and others don't but even then, few people were imbibing. I asked for a Frito Pie, but they had yet to stock them, so I went hungry as the other options were pretty typical.
The design of the ballpark is quite unique, with a main entry arch through which you come up a flight of stairs to the seating bowl. Just inside the main entrance are a few plaques that are carved out of what appears to be concrete. Each plaque commemorates a different aspect of Rice baseball, such as their College World Series appearances, their first round draft picks and All-Americans. A recent addition is a plaque to commemorate Philip Humber's perfect game.
There's not much else there, but why should there be? Reckling Park is yet another wonderful surprise, helped by a perfect Sunday afternoon with a clear blue sky and temperatures approaching 20C. I attended on the same day the NBA All Star Game was held just a few minutes away, and I'd say the better sports attraction was Reckling Park.
Reckling is one of my favorite places to watch a game. Parking is very easy in the spacious lots adjacent to the stadium, and the short walk (200 yards) from these lots to the stadium is pleasant along a grassy path. Inside the stadium, fans are knowledgable and the Owls put up great competition year after year. The food is a little expensive but good, with my favorite being the chicken finger basket. Nearby the park is the Rice Village, which has lots of shops for before-game shopping and restaurants for after game dinner. A personal favorite is Punk's for their fried chicken plate. The Owls do serve beer at their tent down the left field line, and the hill in left field is free for most games and a great spot to watch and tailgate from on a breezy spring day.
2365 Rice Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
Houston, TX 77479
5607 Morningside Dr
Houston, TX 77005
6100 Hermann Park Dr
Houston, TX 77030
6200 Hermann Park Dr
Houston, TX 77030
5555 Hermann Park Dr
Houston, TX 77030