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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
On the south side of Houston is the fairly newly renovated Tudor Fieldhouse, which is home to the Rice University basketball team. Rice has never been known as a basketball powerhouse and you probably haven't heard of any players that have made the NBA from Rice, but don't let that fool you because a trip to Tudor Fieldhouse is a must if you're in the area.
Tudor Fieldhouse was originally built back in 1960 and was then called Rice Gymnasium, but former Rice alum Bobby Tudor made a multi-million dollar donation to renovate the arena and the university renamed it in 2008 after the renovations.
The Fieldhouse can currently seat just over 5,200 fans and it does so with not only plenty of comfort but also great sightlines to the court. The court is called Autry court after a descendant of Micajah Autry, a hero of the Battle of the Alamo, who donated money for the building fund of Tudor Fieldhouse.
The student section, which is surprisingly one of the craziest sections in college basketball, is called the Autry Army and attends every home college basketball game. Coach John Calipari called this student section the "Blue Army of Death" during his coaching days at Conference USA rival Memphis.
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The Owls don't offer a whole lot outside of the usual at the concession stands. You can plan to get nachos, popcorn, candy, burgers or chicken sandwiches as well as Coca-Cola products. The prices are a tad bit below arena averages, but I would definitely like to see more available selections.
I would advise grabbing any food or drinks you want before the game at the first level concession stands as there isn't a concession stand on the 2nd level.
With the strong student section known as the Autry Army and a vast amount of faculty and prior alumni at the game you can expect to see the type of college basketball experience that is known throughout Texas college basketball. Being in the Conference USA you will not see the grand atmosphere that you may see at Texas, Texas A&M or Baylor but I did think the atmosphere was better than what I saw at Rice's conference rival university of Houston. With the new renovations and upgrades you really can't tell that Tudor Fieldhouse is over 50 years old. After seeing the outside I was a tad bit worried but once I walked in I noticed this is definitely a book that can't be judged by the cover.
Rice University is located in the Midtown/Medical Center area of Houston. There are plenty of things to do and eat in that area of Houston; I would strongly recommend a visit to the Houston Zoo right down the road which is one of the best in the country.
There are a couple of eateries that I would like to suggest in the area. My first recommendation is Mardi Gras Grill on Durham Drive. Like most Houston residents I am a fan of Cajun and spicy food, and if you are too, then the Mardi Gras Grill is the place for you. The Mardi Gras Grill shows the spirit of New Orleans with an abundance of awesome food and drink, always available in a festive atmosphere. They offer a variety of Cajun dishes such as crawfish, etouffee, chicken and sausage jambalaya, crab boulettes, and seafood gumbo. If you are ever in the area during the spring, this is a must stop shop for boiled crawfish as the Mardi Gras Grill is an annual Houston winner in this department.
The other restaurant in the area that I highly recommend is El Tiempo off Montrose Blvd. El Tiempo is a great mom and pop type Mexican restaurant that serves some of the best margaritas in the area. Not only is El Tiempo known for its great food and margaritas, but they have some of the friendliest wait staff that I have found in the Houston area. I highly recommend trying one of the many flavored top shelf margaritas as well as either their beef or chicken fajitas.
It is probably a surprise to most that Rice has a wonderful student section following and I do believe that this following and craziness carries over to some of the other fans in attendance. The Autry Army is on their feet throughout the game and makes life for the opposing team a living nightmare throughout the game with their continual chants and heckles. This was really a great surprise for me to see such a strong student section from a team that hasn't made the tourney since 1970.
I did find Tudor Fieldhouse a little pain to find once I got on campus at Rice, but I will chalk that up to poor research before heading out. Parking is free which is always a plus for me and can be found at the football stadium parking lot which is only about a 100 yard walk to Tudor Fieldhouse. The concourses are more than wide enough to make your way around the fieldhouse without any troubles and the bathrooms were part of the new renovation so are pretty top of the line.
Seating I did find to be a tad difficult, the end court seats are on the second level and I had to get assistance from an usher to actually find where the stairwell is to get to the 2nd level.
It seems as if the university is trying to pay for all the recent renovations in one season with ticket prices ranging anywhere from $15 for end court seats to $30 for mid court seats. I think these prices are a tad bit over average especially for a team that hasn't made the tournament in over 40 years. Tudor Fieldhouse is one of the better college arenas I have visited. I'm just not sure it is worth the $15-$30 price tag.
One point goes to the Autry Army, these guys and girls are a must see. I really didn't expect this from a team like Rice.
My second point goes to free parking. I really can't emphasize enough on how nice this is in today's time and society.
My third and last point goes to the university for the amount of work they put into making Tudor Fieldhouse the place it is today. It is definitely not the most beautiful arena on the outside, but once you walk through the doors you will be pleasantly surprised.
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1200 Durham Dr
Houston, TX 77007
Houston, TX 77019
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