Rice Stadium – Rice Owls
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Old School Style in Space City
Rice University has fielded collegiate football since the 1912 season. In that time, the school has produced eight College Football Hall of Famers – including former Head Coach John Heisman – and 18 All-Americans. The Owls have a 7-5 record in bowl games, including a win in the 1937 Cotton Bowl Classic over Colorado, and have won eight conference championships, mostly during the heyday of the Southwest Conference.
Since 1950 the Owls have called Rice Stadium their home field; the venue is currently the largest on-campus stadium in Conference USA. It played host to the early years of the Houston Cougars football program, as well as the Houston Oilers and Super Bowl VIII, and it was the site of President John F. Kennedy’s speech challenging Americans to reach the moon.
In 2006 the seating capacity was reduced from its original 70,000 to its current configuration in which the end zones are tarped off. While it does show its age in certain areas, Rice Stadium is truly one of the grand old venues in the country.
Food & Beverage 4
Rice Stadium is pretty well equipped in terms of food and beverage options. The facility is bisected in that the home and visitors each are given a side, but both have ample dining and drinking options.
Aside from your typical hamburgers (which are grilled on site, which is a nice change of pace), nachos, popcorn, etc., there are also chain favorites like Chick-fil-A, Which Wich, Marble Slab, and Papa John’s. There is also a Kona Ice food truck selling shaved ice treats near the home side of the stadium.
There are beer and wine stands separate from the food stalls dotted throughout the stadium. Rice Stadium is also one of the facilities that utilize the sEATz app – with this app you can order food from your seat anywhere in the stadium and have it delivered to you by runners. This app is a great feature if you’re hungry and don’t want to miss any of the on-field action.
As it was built in 1950, Rice Stadium would fall in the category of being an “old school” facility. There is definitely some charm, but the facility does show its age and is lacking a lot of the bells and whistles of stadiums that have been built in the last 20 years, for example. There are still a lot of great sight lines, though, and the 29-foot-by-49-foot video board/scoreboard is more than enough to keep fans interested and informed during games.
However, the bleacher style seating on both sides of the stadium can be uncomfortable at times. If you are planning on attending a game, you might want to invest in some stadium seat cushions. You can always bring your own, of course, but they also offer them for rent.
Where Rice Stadium truly excels is in the Neighborhood category – the neighborhood that serves as the home for Rice University is Rice Village. This is one of the most picturesque areas in the city of Houston; the tree-lined streets of this neighborhood have made it a popular destination for fashion seekers and gourmands since the 1930s. French, Italian, Mexican, Indian, and Mediterranean are just some of your dining options.
However, you can never really beat having a good burger. One of the best in Rice Village is also one of the perennial best in the state: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Born in Austin, Hopdoddy quickly grew a following and has sprung up all across the state. The Houston location also features some of the spot’s eclectic burger offerings, including the El Diablo, the Magic Shroom, and the Buffalo Bill. Make sure you leave room for one of their decadent milkshakes, too – you won’t be disappointed.
Since this is Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, you can pretty much be guaranteed to find something to do at all hours of the day if you want to venture away from the shopping and dining options of Rice Village.
The Rice Owls have traditionally been an up and down program with many years of success bracketed by lean years. The last few can be counted among those of the lean variety. Unfortunately, the difficulties on the field have shown up in fan interest in the stands.
At the most recent game I attended, I would not have been surprised to find out that the visiting team fans outnumbered those rooting for Rice. This was especially felt as being lacking coming from the student section. While that is not to say that Rice does not have a loyal fan base, the lack of attendance does take away from the overall atmosphere of Owls games.
Rice Stadium is easily accessible from pretty much anywhere in Houston. The tree-lined streets – especially the main thoroughfare of Greenbriar Drive – can be accessed off of Highway 69. Parking is also plentiful and really affordable at just $5 per car.
Houston also has two very busy airports in George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. No matter where in the world – literally – you are coming from, you can pretty much get a flight into Houston at any time of the day. Be forewarned though; traffic in Space City is notoriously thorny. Plan on delays when heading into a game at Rice Stadium.
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets – which will net you one of those bleacher seats – at Rice Stadium start at $20 per person. However, you can upgrade to a chair back seat in the upper levels of the stadium for $45. During rivalry games, particularly against the crosstown University of Houston in the Bayou Bucket Classic, those tickets will cost you on average of $5-$10 more.
However, with the cost for parking and the relatively low cost for concessions items, this is still a pretty good bargain. Conference USA has some pretty exciting teams, and Rice’s non-conference schedule always draws in a big name or two. You will get your money’s worth and then some at Owls games.
There is not much in the way of extras at Rice Stadium – the theme of it being “old school” is once again at play here. There are the cheerleaders and the Rice Owls Dance Team, but the true stars are the Marching Owls Band, aka The MOB.
The MOB is known for its quirky take on traditional marching band tropes and for being clad in fedoras and shades, like all good MOB-sters. They have been delighting fans at halftime for decades at Rice Stadium, and should be seen at least once by college football fans.
There is a lot to like about Rice Stadium. Just sitting in the stands you can certainly feel the bygone era in which it was built. While not as famous as some of the larger stadiums in the state like Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium or Kyle Field, or even some of the newer ones like McLane Stadium or TDECU Stadium, Rice Stadium definitely has a charm to it and should be experienced by any true college football fan. Given the cost and the history, if you are in Houston, you should make time to visit Rice Stadium at some point.
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