End Zone Seats at Rice Stadium To Be Replaced with New Student Weightlifting Observation Attraction

Proposed Brian Patterson Sports Performance Clinic, Rice Stadium, Rice University

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.


Proposed Brian Patterson Sports Performance Clinic, Rice Stadium, Rice University

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.

Proposed Brian Patterson Sports Performance Clinic, Rice Stadium, Rice University

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.

Renderings: Rice University

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24 Comment

  • Rice should tear it down and build a stadium similar to Ford Stadium at SMU. Rice Stadium has always been a complete eyesore and absurdly gargantuan. What’s sad is that that this part of campus was intended for a Persian Garden, similar to to Duke Gardens in Durham. Seriously, tear it down and rebuild a stadium of appropriate size and style.

  • Shame on you for not mentioning the architect designing the building. Buildings don’t design themselves.

  • As a parent whose child just got his first piece of college mail (thank you, PSAT people) I really, really want to go back in time to when most colleges didn’t have swanky glass-walled weight rooms but DID have lower tuition bills. When I was in college, Rice was practically free. Is it really so much better, now that it costs $60k per year? Not to pick on Rice – this has happened everywhere, thanks to the “free money” the Federal government provides through the student loan program. What I’m waiting for is, when will it all stop?

  • I am sure that some folks regard Rice Stadium as historic, and would fight tooth and nail to keep it. I am surprised we are not already hearing a lot of B and M over the removal of the ‘classic’ end zone bleachers, and how great they were, etc.

  • Looks like a place Hans and Franz would love to pump you up.

  • @Rusty: A reference to HKS was included in a draft of this story, but was replaced by an earlier draft after a hardware crash. We’ve restored it. Thanks for noting.

  • Wonder how the parking situation will be for people wanting to lift weights at the same time as a big game? Parking at Rice is no longer free and on game days there’s not much parking available.

    Rice should just tear down that hideous, over-sized stadium — everyone has always thought it was ugly. Most people at Rice could care less about Rice’s crappy football team anyway. Rice needs to stop wasting money on frivolous nonsense and that way they offer lower tuition for students.

  • parking deck and smaller stadium please. the current stadium/parking lot is a blight on one of the nicest areas of town.

  • Any word on updating the stadium bathrooms?

  • Rice may replace the stadium someday, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Tearing down and building new isn’t exactly going to save any money. And it is certainly a historic structure in terms of its engineering and construction history. The size is overwhelming from the outside, but it’s kind of a nice place to see a football game.

  • Brown and Root threw up this “historic” pile in like 6 months. It’s a dump, it reminds me of Texas Memorial back in the day, before the 300 million dollar makeover. Seriously, tear it down.

  • Would you look at the roof on that thing! What’s with all this hollering about demolition this, parking lot that, replace it with a neo-Georgian snoozer? Please, this is nothing but win, for tasteful architecture, for MCM preservation, for Houston, and for Rice!

  • Rice grad here- they do need to tear it down and build something similar to SMU but I seriously doubt it’ll happen in the next 15-20 years. I don’t think you’d see a substantial increase in attendance even if they were to build a smaller one. It’s a great place to watch a football game as there’s not a bad view in he entire place. Bathrooms are circa 1950 (a la troughs for men) and there’s barely concession stands.

    What the school needs is a push for alcohol sold at Rice Stadium. They already sell it in a designated area but you can’t take beer out to your seat. Think outside the box!!! And it goes with that stupid new slogan “unconventional wisdom.”

  • In addition, this design is awful, it doesn’t reflect the architecture of Rice in the least. When B&R threw this stadium up, they made little effort to make it inconspicuous or in keeping with the beautiful singular architecture aesthetic of Rice. The school has been excellent in staying with Cram’s Byzantine style, with the exception of Staub’s awful Fondren Library (which prematurely terminated the axis), Aubrey Court, and Rice Stadium. Actually this addition just makes it worse.

  • Rice reneged on a football scholarship for me years ago (4 days before signing) after verbal commitments and me turning down offers from other colleges. Screeeeew their football program. They should be focusing on academics instead of nursing along a faltering program run by morons.

  • That old stadium needs another Super Bowl.

  • Tearing down Rice stadium would cost more than building a new one of a more appropriate size for Rice. It is an absolutely massive solid chuck of concrete. That’s why it hasn’t been torn down and replaced already.

    Also, this weight room would be for the football team only i imagine (that’s usually the case at D1 programs), so there aren’t going to be games going on while people are lifting.

  • What would be cheaper than tearing down the stadium and building a new one would be just to tear it down period. I have some great memories of watching the MOB, but seriously, why does Rice even bother with football now. It can’t be making them any money. (According to this article from 2011, it exactly breaks even, which suggests some phony baloney accounting going on: http://businessofcollegesports.com/2011/04/26/how-profitable-is-football-in-conference-usa/ .)

  • 1 – the amenities should be available for all students, because I’m sure money came from all students for it.
    2 – who cares about parking – I realize all students don’t live on campus, but if they are going to go to lift weights, how is it going to hurt to have to walk or ride a bike over there – it’ll provide a nice warm up
    3 – I actually detest the level of amenities universities and colleges feel they *have* to provide to students. UH was building their sports center while I attended and I could never use it, but I sure as hell paid for it. And I think the new stadium they built was a waste, too. Students could use a little austerity to prepare them for the real world.

  • The money was all donated, with the biggest chunk coming from a former football player. The students paid nothing, nor did the university or the endowment. This will be for student-athletes-primarily the football team- and not open to all students. Rice built a nice rec center a few years ago for students that includes a weight/fitness facility. That was also paid for entirely by outside donors. As for the design- I believe it fits in perfectly with the original stadium design. Also- you might want to check out HKSinc.com if you don’t know anything about HKS.

    GlenW- this new addition is the first in a planned multi-phase makeover of the stadium, and yes, the next things to be addressed are allegedly the bathrooms and the concession areas (as well as lighting, electrical, paint, press box renovation, etc)

    Rice is making an effort to become relevant in college football again and is finally beginning to make the financial commitment necessary. These past three years in football have seen 3 straight bowl games (2 of them wins) and the first outright conference championship in 50+ years. You’ll see former Owl Luke Willson playing for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

    Given the quality of the young men that play for Rice and the academic workload they have to handle along with their athletic requirements- you’d think the general public would provide them with some support. As a Rice alumnus I am pretty disappointed in the comments here.

  • It’s ridiculous to suggest Rice dump millions in student dues and tuition for their pathetic football program that averages like 8000 a game. I’ve been to games at Rice and you can hear the crickets. There is no way this program doesn’t hermmorage money.

  • Football is simply part of a university’s advertising campaign. It’s not about the ticket sales, it’s about playing in bowl games that get national visibility. Not everyone’s program can be (or need be) a profit center.

  • Rice doesn’t need football to recruit students, get real. Rice has a stellar academic reputation and turns away many more than it accepts. Are you even familiar with Rice?

  • Shannon, Rice is well-known in Texas, but not so much in the rest of the country (and yes, I do speak from experience). I must agree with you in that it’s a shame that the original campus plan wasn’t followed more closely over the years. I’m printing out the Cite magazine centennial article to read it right now.