It’s been notoriously difficult to fill Rice Stadium — ever since those darn Houston Oilers came to town. Even President Kennedy couldn’t do it when he came by in 1962 to introduce a little mission to the moon he had cooked up. About 8 years ago, giant logo-bearing tarps were planted over the seating areas in both end zones, reducing the capacity (though not permanently) from 70,000 to 47,000.
But the latest planned changes appear to be following a 2-fold strategy to help fill the place: First, Rice University’s new $31.5 million Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center will knock out the stadium’s entire northern end zone — including more than 11,000 seats. Even better, the mostly brick building will have a giant glass wall on the side facing the playing field, which will offer spectators tired of watching the game shaded views into 2 levels of weight rooms. If they can get the scheduling right, with gridiron and pumping-iron action running simultaneously, fans will have the opportunity to enjoy 2 attractions at once. Likewise, flexing athletes will have a pretty good view of the field — and fans, if they’re out there — while they’re working their muscles.
Rice athletics director Joe Karlgaard’s claim that construction of the new building won’t reduce the 65-year-old stadium’s seating capacity is technically true: No one has sat in either end zone since 2006. But the new building will get rid of the entire concrete structure at the stadium’s northern end, permanently fixing its capacity at sub-Astrodome levels. Renderings released by the university show the canted section replacing the end zone seating area covered with plantings, some of them mounted vertically. Through it, a ramp will run from the new 60,000-sq.-ft. structure onto the field below. A new scoreboard mounted on top of the new building will replace the existing scoreboard, which was installed 8 years ago.
In addition to the weight-rooms-with-a-view, the 2-story building, which was designed by HKS, will include a new locker room (for home teams only, sorry) as well as coaching and staff offices, an auditorium, a lounge for the football team, and training facilities that include pools and exam rooms. The sports medicine facilities and the weight rooms will be available to all Rice athletes.
Construction is expected to begin soon and be complete in time for the 2016 season.
- Student-athlete development building planned for Rice Stadium [Rice News]
- Athletics unveils $31.5 million training facility [Rice Thresher]
Renderings: Rice University