Reckling Park – Rice Owls
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The Owls’ Roost
Facing out towards the Texas Medical Center, Reckling Park is the ultimate representation of a school known for its baseball prowess. The Rice Owls have called Reckling home since 2000, and have continued to improve upon it both with accolades and renovations.
Reckling Park was built on the site of old Cameron Field, which was demolished at the end of the 1999 season. The first game at Reckling saw a crowd of 4,117 come through the turnstiles, and the team still averages more than 3,200 fans per game.
The ballpark is one of those places that seems like it gets better with age, just like the club’s longtime head coach Wayne Graham.
Food & Beverage 3
If you’re looking for the good ol’ burgers and hot dogs with your college baseball, you are in luck at Reckling Park. Just be sure to get to those concession stands early on because the lines can pile up heading into the middle innings. Or you could grab some Fajita Petes before you even walk through the gates.
Curly fries are certainly the option that catches the eye above all else. You can add them on to your hot dog ($5) or hamburger ($7.50 or $8 with cheese) for $2.50, but you won’t be able to find regular fries, which isn’t a bad thing.
In addition to curly fries, you can grab a chicken tender basket for $6, or nachos for $5. There’s not a huge variety of options at the two concessions stands that sit behind home plate, but everything tastes very good.
Reckling Park is a Coca-Cola facility, and if you buy a souvenir cup for $6, refills are just $3 each for the rest of the day.
Both baselines have beer garden-type areas where beer and wine are sold along with food and soda. Bud Light and Michelob are the two main options here, but you can also get beers from Karbach, a local brewery that is an official sponsor of Rice baseball.
The outfield berm also looks like a party, where fans bring in entire coolers of their own food and drinks of all kinds. So if you want to go that route, that’s certainly an option.
All the food seems to be good, and if you’re not drinking alcohol, then I’d certainly go with the souvenir cup/refill option so that you can get your soda fix in for the entire game. But the hot dogs and hamburgers are definitely good – just be aware that they might run out of cheese and ketchup later in the game.
There’s an old school vibe in a new school setting that gives Reckling Park an interesting atmosphere for college baseball.
Walking up to Reckling, you think you’re stepping back in history a little bit. The main facade is brick with iron gates, making it look more like 100 years old than what its real age is. Once you make your way into the seating area though, you realize it’s definitely a more modern college baseball stadium, with the ultimate modernization of the medical district gracing the skyline.
The seats have cupholders, and get right down to the field. The backstop is a pretty good distance from home plate, and there’s netting in front of the entire seating area, so you’re in no real harm despite being right on the field. There’s also a large scoreboard beyond the right field fence for everyone to see all the basic baseball stats, including the MPH displayed for each pitch.
In addition to the 3,700 chairbacks (most with cupholders), there are nine private suites and a picnic/beer garden area down each foul line, plus there’s the outfield berm/bleacher seating. Rice sits in the first base dugout, with the two bullpens near the beer garden areas.
There isn’t a ton of in-game entertainment outside of the typical t-shirt tosses that you’d expect at a college game these days. However, the sound system and PA announcer blend in perfectly with the in-game experience, so whatever they’re doing with that they’re doing it right.
I‘d recommend sitting on the first base side simply because it’s in the shade for a longer period of time and it’s where the Rice dugout is. There aren’t any really bad seats in Reckling Park though.
There’s certainly a unique neighborhood situation happening with this particular ballpark. For starters, you have five of the nation’s biggest and well-known hospitals within a few blocks.
A short walk from the stadium is Rice Village, which is the place to eat and shop near Rice. Some of the must-sees include Torchy’s Tacos, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and The Ginger Man, but there’s definitely something in that area for everyone and every taste.
If you’re looking to stray away from Rice, taking the Metro rail to downtown Houston is easy and convenient, with a station just two blocks from Reckling Park. And of course downtown has tons of different options, with a lot of them right along the rail.
Hermann Park is just a few blocks away, which includes the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theater, and more. And just beyond the park is the Museum District, which includes 19 different museums for your enjoyment and perusal.
There are a few hotels along Main St. that are walkable from Reckling Park, but they could be a little expensive. Most of the better, more affordable options will be about a mile or so south towards NRG Stadium. All the major hotel chains are found around there, and are just a short drive down Main St. from Rice’s campus.
Rice certainly attracts many fans to their games on a regular basis – averaging over 3,200 a game for a decade is no small feat.
Even though Rice is known for good attendance, especially for a Conference USA team, the game I went to was against Texas A&M, and I’d say it was about 60% Aggie fans that were at the game. There was no real buzz in the stands outside of the A&M fans, and it seems like a school with such a rich baseball history as Rice would have more traditions during games that involve the fans, but nothing really stands out.
If you can avoid driving to a Rice baseball game, do it – public transit is definitely the best way to get to Reckling Park in my opinion. There is a METRORail stop just two blocks from the stadium, and tickets for the train only cost $1.25. This way you avoid the Medical District traffic, the Rice traffic, and just have to make a short walk to and from the Dryden/TMC station. And trains run very regularly so there’s not a long wait either.
If you do drive, there are several parking options – Rice provides a map here, but essentially you can park in the orange lots for $5 or in the Greenbriar lot for free if you don’t already have a parking pass.
There’s only one way into the main part of the stadium (there is a separate entrance for the outfield berm), and getting in is pretty easy. But here is a list of prohibited items:
Weapons of any kind
No pets (Exception: service animals)
Food and Beverages (Exception: 1 liter unopened bottle of water)
Unauthorized banners, signs or flags
Oversized bags, briefcases, coolers, etc.
Recording Devices (professional cameras, tripods, etc.)
There’s also re-entry available as long as you have them scan your ticket or phone when leaving the stadium.
The weird part about Reckling Park is that the main seating area only has one entrance onto the concourse (behind home plate), but you can also walk all the way around the stands towards the beer gardens to get to the concourse.
Concessions lines move very slowly, so be sure to get your food early if you don’t want to miss too much action. But there are no issues with lines anywhere else in the park.
Return on Investment 3
Everything costs pretty much exactly what you think it would cost at a high-major D-1 baseball game. Tickets are right around $20, food can cost you about $12 for a meal, and parking might cost $5 if you want to park somewhat close. However, it might be in your best interest to look into bringing a cooler and sitting in the outfield berm, if you’re bringing a big group or family.
You can also buy two, three, and six-game mini plans if you’re planning on attending several Rice games over the course of the year – that’ll at least save a little bit of money. And like I mentioned in the food section, you’ll want to at least think about getting a souvenir cup, so you can save a little bit of money on soda if you’re going to get more than one (and you also get to take something home with you).
I’d like to give an extra point to the unique backdrop of baseball games at Reckling Park. It’s not the naturalistic beauty that oth er ballparks have, but if you like interesting architecture, looking out onto the Texas Medical Center is certainly eye-pleasing.
Another extra for the 2005 CWS Championship banner in center field and the trophy located near the entrance – there aren’t a lot of schools that are Rice’s size that can show that kind of hardware off.
One last extra for what Wayne Graham built at this school – the guy has been coaching college baseball since 1981, and has been at Rice since 1992. He’s a legend, and it’s certainly worth seeing him take that long, slow walk to the mound. Oh, and his grandson that serves as the team’s batboy is a show in itself.
In a big pro sports town like Houston, Rice has certainly established itself as the city’s premier college baseball program, and has the facility to back that up. If you’re looking for a unique day at the ballpark, be sure to check out Reckling Park when you’re in the Houston area – you’ll be glad you did.
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