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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It's been the home of the Rice Owls since 1950, with a few changes but overall it's still the same. Rice Stadium has the "expandable" capacity to hold 70,000 people which is quite interesting. At most times the end zones are tarped over making the official capacity for the majority of games at 47,000, which for Rice Owls football is still a tad much. With an average yearly attendance of 13,000-18,000 over the last five years, the capacity to seat 47,000 is much more than needed. When Rice plays some of the more marquee teams ala Texas, Texas A&M, etc. they usually move the game to Reliant Stadium home of the Houston Texans.
Overall the stadium was definitely one of the first of its kind and provides a great atmosphere to watch football. I just hope that one day the product can equal up to the potential atmosphere.
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The Owls do a great job of providing a decent amount of options when you get to the stadium. They have the stadium basics like hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tender baskets, and nachos. They also have a couple of off beat items like Papa John's pizza and Chick-fil-A at decent stadium prices. Rice Stadium does have a beer lounge in the north end zone that you can sit in and enjoy a beer - something you rarely see at college football games. I tried the sausage on a stick and found it to be pretty tasty and, of course, the kids enjoyed the Marble Slab ice cream vendor. Overall there are pretty decent options at good prices.
At Rice Stadium you will definitely not see the rowdy atmosphere you see at some of the other schools in Texas like Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M. One thing I didn't see at Rice Stadium which I found sadly odd was no student section. To me the student section is really what makes college football what it is and a lack of that is pretty depressing. The stadium is wonderfully built with great sightlines no matter where you sit. I just think maybe a little more advertising and student participation could really raise the experience.
Luckily for Rice Stadium, they are located in what is known as the "Museum District". This plus makes for plenty of interesting things to do before and after the game as well as for great places to catch a bite or sit back and enjoy a cold one.
One of the places I enjoy the most in the area is Hugo's which is always voted one of the best places in Houston. Hugo's offers some of the best Mexican tacos you can find in the Houston area as well as some great margaritas and amazing service. Make sure if you plan on swinging by Hugo's to check out the happy hour times where they offer great cocktail prices as well as some amazing bar foods.
Another place I thoroughly enjoy in the area is Rudyard's British Pub which offers great drink prices and is a wonderful place to grab a greasy hamburger or some towering nachos for your empty stomach. Rudyard's is just such a great place, where you can sit back, drink a beer, hang with your buddies and maybe listen to a little music. Sit down and polish off one of Juan's Especial Pizzas, the toppings change daily but they're always good.
Well the fans are definitely an interesting subject at Rice Stadium. As I mentioned before I did not notice a student section and if there was one, wow it is very dismal. The majority of the people I saw attending the game were either middle aged or older alumni, which isn't bad but sometimes kills that rowdy loud atmosphere some come to expect at college football games. Overall the fans are decent and they do cheer and boo at the right times, there just isn't enough of them.
Access is about as easy and good as you can find at any college football game. Due to the lackluster attendance getting in and out of the stadium is a breeze and I was pleasantly surprised to see that parking was free right outside the stadium, which is always a major plus in my book. The bathrooms I found to be readily available pretty much throughout the game and the wide concourses make for easy foot and wheelchair traffic.
Tickets range anywhere from $8-$20, which is a steal for FBS college football. However like I mentioned earlier some of the marquee games where Rice expects a big attendance they usually move the game to Reliant Stadium so don't expect to get to watch any powerhouse programs at Rice Stadium. I will say though with free parking, cheap tickets and a nicely built stadium with good sightlines you're not wasting any money by going to an Owls game at Rice Stadium.
I definitely have to give a point to free parking, in this day and age it's the little things that count.
Another extra point goes to the beer lounge at the north end zone. It's a rarity to see alcohol served at any college football games, so having a little place for one to enjoy a brew is always nice.
My last extra point goes for the beauty of the stadium and for how well Rice puts everything together for gameday. Nicely done Owls!
If you are in the area this is definitely a stadium to check out, as one of the first of its kind. The Owls are definitely doing a great job of working with what they have. Another reason to visit is because most people don't know that this place hosted Super Bowl VIII back in 1974, so come see a little history.
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