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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Rice Stadium was built in the heyday of Owls football, when the team regularly competed for and won the Southwest Conference championship (four titles in 12 years). That was before the NFL came to town, and the marquee games started being played across town. Today, football games at Rice are not very well attended, even in the best of years, so attending a game here is not as exciting as it once was. As a result, there is little interest in keeping the stadium up to date, since there aren’t enough fans who care.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Rice Stadium has everything that you would expect at a football game, including burgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders, all at very reasonable prices; the most expensive item is only $6. They also serve ice cream, sodas, coffee, and hot cocoa. The most exotic thing offered is sandwiches from Firehouse Subs, both hot and cold varieties, which are done surprisingly well - they manage to keep the hot subs moist and delicious, even though they are not prepared on site. While alcohol is not permitted in the stadium, per se, you can actually purchase it in a special section of the east upper deck called The Roost, which offers reserved seating for patrons so you can sit and watch the game while you drink your beer. The only downside of the food at Rice Stadium is that they don't offer any Mexican or Tex-Mex, which should almost be against the law for football in Texas.
The stadium offers a little bit of history, having hosted Super Bowl VIII in the seventies (a 24-7 Dolphins victory over the Vikings), and been the site of a JFK speech about the space program back in the early sixties. State of the art when it was built, it is currently in the need of some upgrades. For example, most of the seats are bleacher-style with no chairbacks. However, the biggest issue with Rice Stadium is the attendance - recent attendance has only averaged around 15,000 per game, despite winning records during the past few seasons. No matter how exciting the action is on the gridiron, it is difficult to really get into the game when no one else is there to cheer alongside you. There aren't any tailgating or pregame festivities to speak of either, although it does have plenty of banners in the school colors.
Rice is situated in an upscale neighborhood, so there are a number of trendy restaurants in the area, just not really any of the bar and grill type that would make for a good pregame hangout. Benjy's on West University is a local favorite a few blocks away, specializing in seafood and breakfast items. There are also a couple of fast food restaurants nearby. There isn't much else near the stadium, but of course if you come for the weekend, there are plenty of things to do in Houston, such as tour the Space Center or visit some of the Texas Revolution battlefield sites. The George H. W. Bush presidential library is in nearby College Station, and of course, you could take in a Texans game.
Rice is a tiny private school with fewer than 7,000 students, including the graduate school, and only about 3,000 faculty and staff. Students are allowed into football games for free with their student id, but even if they all went (which they don't), there aren't enough of them to create a really robust student section. In addition, since the school is so small, there aren't that many alumni either, so games are not well-attended. While many of the fans who are there do dress in Owls gear, they don't really get into the game - a lot even leave early, and it is hard to blame them.
There is a little bit of traffic on the way to the stadium, since it is on campus, but not a lot because the games aren't well-attended. Parking is free right next to the stadium, so that is a plus - you can get from your car to the stadium is less than a minute. Again, because the crowd is so small, there are plenty of bathrooms, and no lines at the concession stands. Also, the venue was originally built for 70,000, but right now as many as 20,000 seats in the lower level are tarped over, so there are more than enough facilities for everyone.
Tickets cost $30 if you buy them from the school, but you can get them much cheaper from a third party. Parking is free, however, and concessions are inexpensive, so it may be worthwhile if you can get cheap seats. This is a stadium you might want to save for when your team happens to play there.
I previously mentioned the Superbowl and the JFK speech, so points have already been awarded for the historical significance. I would normally give a point for them letting you re-enter the stadium, which is a rarity in college football these days, but the experience isn't enjoyable enough that many would want to.
If you just want to see a football game, Rice Stadium might be a good option. It won't cost a lot, it is easy to get around, you won't have to fight any crowds, and best of all, the home team will probably win.
Member Review by pderrick
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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