AVEVA Stadium - Houston Sabercats
Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
AVEVA Stadium 2055 Mowery Rd Houston, TX 77045
Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 4,000
Sabercats' New Era at AVEVA Stadium
The close of the 2019 season for Major League Rugby’s Houston Sabercats saw the beginning of a new era for the still fledgling team. After a series of delays due to Houston’s famously fickle weather, the second to last game of the season was witness to the grand opening of the team’s brand-new facility, AVEVA Stadium.
With its opening, the venue becomes only the second in the United States to be built solely for Major League Rugby. The opening brought with it tons of pomp and circumstance, including a speech from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and a flyover by the United States Coast Guard. As it goes forward, what will AVEVA Stadium look like on the Houston sports scene? Read all about it from my visit.
Food & Beverage 3
As it currently sits, there is one main concessions area for fans at AVEVA Stadium which offers much of your traditional stadium fare, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, popcorn, and soft pretzels – all of these options are available for $5 to $8 each. The stadium also offers some upgraded items, such as fish and chips baskets and personal-sized cheese and pepperoni pizzas ($10). In terms of beverages, AVEVA Stadium offers bottled soda, water, and sports drinks ($4).
The concessions stand, which does have multiple windows, is located directly behind the west grandstand. Because of where it is situated, this does tend to be a high-traffic area and there are bottlenecks throughout the game. However, the staff does a good job of cycling people through fairly quickly.
There are also two full bars at AVEVA Stadium, offering mixed drinks as well as beer and wine. One of the bars is located behind the team store on the north end of the field, while the other is on the south end of the field under the jumbotron in the stadium’s Party Zone. Both of these bars are, obviously, very popular and tend to be busy throughout the game. You should plan your visits accordingly to mitigate missing the action on the pitch.
As was to be expected for its grand opening, the atmosphere at AVEVA Stadium was pretty electric during my visit. There was a live band performing before and after the game, and the staff also had members of the armed services in attendance for Military Appreciation Night. The venue also had fireworks going off before the game, and it was a virtual sellout for opening night – it will be interesting to see how well the Sabercats can keep the momentum going moving forward.
Overall, this is a really well-designed facility. It has a very industrial look and feel to it, with many of the buildings – including the team store and one of the bars – looking like modified shipping containers. Steel and concrete abound, and this seems to fit with the general aesthetics of the sport of rugby.
In certain spots, especially the south end, you are virtually right on top of the action. The fans seated on both ends, in fact, are apt to find themselves on the lookout for a falling rugby ball that has sailed through the uprights on a try. Of course, there are still some bugs to be worked out and some finishing touches to be added, but one game in, AVEVA Stadium looks great.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the country and is one of the premier tourist spots in all of Texas. It has a metropolitan air to it – the Theater District, Museum District, and Chinatown neighborhoods are attractions not seen anywhere else in the state – that adds to the city’s overall charm. When attending games at AVEVA Stadium, this is something you should keep in mind before and after games.
The Sabercats new home is located about 15 minutes east of Houston’s downtown, near the campus of Houston Community College and the Houston Sportsplex, which is the training site of the MLS’s Houston Dynamo – if you plan your visit right, you might be able to catch one of the Dynamo’s practices.
Other than that, there is really nothing else to see or do in the area immediately around AVEVA Stadium; it is in a still relatively undeveloped part of the city. While this area is within eyesight of NRG Stadium and the Astrodome, and you can’t miss the Houston skyline, there is a distinct lack of activity in the immediate neighborhood.
The Houston Sabercats first took the pitch in 2017, and in that time they’ve developed quite a rabid fan base. At their former home, Constellation Field in Sugar Land, the team averaged just under 1,000 fans per game. For a niche sport in a still growing league, that’s not a bad number. But at their new home in Houston proper, you can expect this number to rise significantly.
For this first game the stands were jam packed – tailgaters littered the parking lots and there was a surprisingly large amount of yellow and black Sabercat gear in the stands. Houston, with the multinational and diverse makeup of its citizenry, is the ideal spot for a team like the Sabercats; I expect as they find success on the pitch, you’ll see their fan base get even larger.
Fans in Stands at a Houston Sabrecats Match, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
On a related note, I freely admit that I don’t have the depth of knowledge of the sport of rugby to be considered anything near being called an expert – the rules of the game, let alone the nuances, are something that I am woefully under-educated on. With that said, I was glad to have true fans of the game in the stands, to educate fellow novices, like myself, on the finer points.
You can get to AVEVA Stadium fairly easily from downtown Houston via Highway 288. While there isn’t much in the way of signage yet marking the way – there are signs for the Houston Sportsplex, though – I expect that will come with time.
The parking lot at AVEVA Stadium is one of the areas that still wasn’t quite ready yet on opening night, but there was still ample parking to accommodate the large crowd. The fee to park at the stadium is $10 per car, but down the road at the Sportsplex there is parking for $5, with a “valet shuttle” to take you to the game.
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets for the Houston Sabercats start at $15 per person, which is a pretty spot-on price point for a growing sport in the U.S. like professional rugby. This is especially a good deal for a brand-new facility like AVEVA Stadium, and a great way to introduce new fans to the sport, especially if you want to bring in younger fans to introduce to the game.
Couple the ticket cost with the relatively low concessions and parking costs, and you can take a large group or family to a Sabercats game and not have to worry about spending the proverbial arm and a leg. I think fans should get in early on the sport, as it seems poised to take off in the coming years.
For their first game at AVEVA Stadium, the Sabercats brought out a ton of extras, but I don’t believe the flyover, the live band, and the vintage military vehicles that were seen this first night will be a regular part of the game day experience going forward.
With that said, I think you can still bank on a couple of things to be there every night. Near the main entrance, for example, there were quite a few sponsors and vendors with booths offering games and giveaways to fans.
You can also bank on the team’s cheerleaders, the Houston LadyCats Spirit Squad, to be delighting the fans on the sidelines and at halftime during every home game. The team also brings in junior rugby teams to take the pitch during the intermission, which is a great way to cultivate young fans of the sport and of the team.
There is still room for improvement at AVEVA Stadium, but even without all the polish being applied, you can see that this is going to be a great facility. It seems truly designed with the rugby fan in mind – the sight lines are spectacular, you feel like you’re on top of the action from every seat in the building, and the Sabercats have done a great job in educating fans about the team.
I expect by the time next season (2020) rolls around, AVEVA Stadium will be the talk of the league. Houston has it all when it comes to sports, so I think it is only fitting that the Sabercats be included in the mix. If you have even a passing interest in the sport of rugby, you should make a visit to catch a Sabercats game.