Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Shell Energy Stadium 2200 Texas Ave Houston, TX 77003
Year Opened: 2012
Texas Southern University Tigers – BBVA Stadium
Editor's Note: BBVA Stadium name changed to Shell Energy Stadium in early 2023.
Founded in 1927 as a historically black university (HBCU) in Houston, Texas, Texas Southern University began fielding a football team in 1947. The team has a rich history on the gridiron, sending numerous players to the NFL and boasting two Pro Football Hall of Famers in Winston Hill and Michael Strahan.
As is popular with HBCU schools, Texas Southern competes in two football classics against two of their rivals, the Labor Day Classic against Prairie View A&M and the Texas State Fair Football Showdown against Southern University.
Over the years, they’ve won five conference championships – one in the defunct Midwest Athletic Association and four in their current home of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC); the most recent one came in 2010. The Tigers have also claimed two Black National Championships, one in 1952 and one in 2010 (though that title was forced to be vacated by the NCAA).
After playing the previous four decades at Alexander Durley Sports Complex, Texas Southern moved to their new home field stadium in downtown Houston BBVA Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo of the MLS and the Houston Dash of the NASL. In non-pandemic years, the state-of-the-art facility provides a unique home-field advantage for the Tigers.
Food & Beverage 2
As with all the ratings throughout the course of this review, these will all need to be taken with the grain of salt that these were done during the time of the pandemic. During normal times, BBVA Stadium has an abundance of food and drink offerings for visitors ranging from street tacos to frozen mixed drinks.
However, during the truncated spring season, with its limited seating capacity, there are also limited concessions open on the main concourse area, as well as stadium favorites such as H-Town Grill (near Papa John’s Pizza), Goal Post Grill, and Flor de Caña bar.
All have a limited menu, but you will still find enough of the traditional stadium offerings, such as hot dogs, popcorn, soft pretzels, bottled beer, sodas, and water, as well as frozen drinks ($14-$16.50).
Concessions at BBVA Stadium During Pandemic, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
During normal seasons, Texas Southern averages just over 9,000 fans per game, while during the spring season they average far less than that, of course. The lower bowl of the stadium is closed off to fans and this honestly greatly impacts the overall atmosphere of the stadium. The stadium store is also closed off during the spring season; however, there is a small merchandise table open during games.
Having the band in the stands (more on them in the Extras section) does greatly help, however. With the stadium usually only getting filled 50% and now getting less than half of that for games, it can feel cavernously empty. Having the noise and energy of the band helps fill the void.
The videoboards in the north end zone help fans keep track of the action on the field, while the overhang in the south helps shade those who have the good fortune to be sitting there during those hot, humid afternoons and nights in Houston in early and mid-September (or in this case, in April and May) before the weather cools.
BBVA Stadium itself is such a unique construction that it features a “faceted facade” of expanded metal mesh with orange, polycarbonate enclosed entrances and spectator facilities that reflect “the industrial heritage of the East Downtown location”. It is truly unique on the Houston sports scene.
Space City is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. As such, it truly has all that one could hope for in a big-city experience. This is especially true when it comes to sports. BBVA Stadium is home to the Houston Dynamo of the MLS. Downtown Houston is also home to the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets.
The NFL’s Houston Texans are also within shouting distance of the area. With that in mind, if you do your homework and you plan accordingly, you could really get some good bang for your sporting buck if you want to see other games when you make your visit to see the Texas Southern Tigers.
What gives this particular section its high rating is what drives all things in real estate: location, location, location. Downtown Houston is the cultural and economic hub of the city and BBVA Stadium is right smack dab in the middle of all of it. In terms of food, H-Town has everything you could want and more.
For a little more of that modern, hipster vibe, the Truck Yard Houston capitalizes on what is now an institution and no longer a fad in food trucks. The park is also within walking distance of the stadium and combines all the things that make these experiences great – unique food, craft beer, and live music. Each day of the week features different trucks and different live performers. It is a very chill experience and one that offers a great experience before or after Tigers games.
If you’re looking for things to do and are, again, looking to stay downtown before or after Tigers games, there is a lot going on in the area. One of the hidden gems in the area for outdoor enthusiasts is the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. An outgrowth of the history Buffalo Bayou Park, the Cistern is a former underground reservoir that is now open for urban hikers and art and history enthusiasts, as the area has been converted into a public art space.
For those traveling to H-Town with kiddos, the Downtown Aquarium is something that should not be missed. The six-acre site features over 300 species of aquatic sea life and has a full-sized Ferris wheel on site, which can be seen from nearby Interstate 45.
The fans have not turned out in droves in recent years for Tigers games at BBVA Stadium, which is truly a shame. For such a large city at a Division I program with a large alumni base, this is unfortunate. But every team will get the proverbial mulligan for the COVID era, so again these numbers are a little skewed.
In the lots surrounding the stadium, there are plenty of fans out tailgating, which greatly enhances the energy of the overall game day experience. This goes a long way toward honestly normalizing things during these abnormal times, and making this spring season feel like a true college game day in the fall.
Going back to Houston being the fourth largest city, it also has one of the largest and busiest airports in the country in George Bush Intercontinental Airport. This means that flights are coming and going from all over the world at all hours of the day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No matter where you’re coming from, you’ll be able to fly into H-Town to catch a Texas Southern game.
Once you get to town, getting to the stadium, well, therein lies the challenge – Houston is notorious for its traffic. No matter the day of the week nor the time of day, factor in a drive of at least 30 minutes to get from one area of the city to another; it’s just a fact of life. Once you get to the stadium, there are lots around BBVA Stadium where parking will run you anywhere from $5-$10 depending on how close you want to park; or you can park in metered spots on the street.
However, if you are looking to eschew driving to the game, for $1.25 each way, the METRORail will drop you off right in front of the stadium, which is a great convenience and is something to consider.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets for TSU Tigers games range from $18 to $53 per person, though these tickets have been limited during the spring season. This is pretty commensurate with other Division I teams at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. Parking and concessions are also on par for this level of college football.
When you take into account the level of competition that comes into BBVA Stadium, this cost is a pretty good deal, especially if you can catch the Labor Day Classic. H-Town in general is pretty high-end, but you’re getting a good bargain at Texas Southern games.
Again, not to keep harping on this, but in a normal season the Extras at Tigers game would be rank much higher. Texas Southern still has all the great accoutrements that make college football special. These are taken up a notch at HBCU schools, especially the marching band. Texas Southern University’s marching band, the Ocean of Soul would normally put on a tremendous show at halftime on the field, but are relegated to the stands during games at present.
The same can be said for the TSU Spirit cheerleaders, Tiger Sensations dance squad, and Tommy the Tiger mascot. They’re all present at games, but in limited capacities, just waiting to be unleashed in the Fall.
While I was glad to get out to a football game again, I was somehow hoping for more out of my visit to Texas Southern. I completely understand that these are extraordinary times and everyone is doing what they can to get some games in during this spring season.
My hope is that once the world gets back to normalcy, so too will Tigers games at BBVA Stadium, and I look forward to making another visit then.