One of America's great stadiums, celebrating its 58th season in 2008, is the home of Rice Owls Football.
Rice Stadium has proved to be the master of time. It is still recognized as the best stadium in which to watch a football game in Texas. The stadium seats 70,000 fans, a tribute to a university with only 2,600 undergraduate students.
In 1949, the Rice Owls fielded one of its greatest teams led by all-Americas Froggie Williams and Joe Watson, won the Southwest Conference championship and the 1950 Cotton Bowl with a 10-1 record.
However, old Rice Stadium (now the Rice Track Stadium) seated less than 37,000 fans. Houston's civic leaders decided the old structure was not a proper venue for the South West Conference champions, much less a city with a future so bright. The idea for the new Rice Stadium was born.
Brown & Root Construction was the general contractor for the project and the ground breaking was held in February. Working 24-hour shifts for the next nine months, Brown & Root completed the stadium in time for the 1950 season opener in late September.
Rice Stadium remains unique because it was built for football only. There is no running track around the perimeter of the field, so sightlines and facilities are still as functional today as they were in 1950.
The entire Rice football operation is housed in the stadium. The Owls' locker rooms and the Owl Club at the south end of the stadium were recently renovated, making those areas among the finest in the SWC. Offices for the Owls' coaching staff and football meeting rooms are also located in the stadium.
One of the more significant additions to the stadium complex is the John L. Cox Weight Fitness Center. The 8,000-square-foot complex, newly constructed on the southeast corner of the stadium, is one of the premier college facilities in the nation. The next phase of construction, which will be finished in time for the 1996 season, is the expansion of the Rice locker room and renovation of the sports medicine and equipment areas.
The Owls and their opponents will also be playing under a new lighting system (which was added in 1995), enabling the return of night games to the stadium.
The Owl Club, atop the south end zone, is virtually a historical museum of the great Rice athletes and teams. The walls are filled with the photos of past Owls, forming a fitting site for many team functions. The room is also used for academic, civic and other social events.
Rice Stadium has been the scene of many exciting moments in the football histories of Rice, the city of Houston and the National Football League. At various times, the stadium has served as the home stadium for the Bluebonnet Bowl, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and the NFL's Houston Oilers. In 1974, Rice Stadium was the site of Super Bowl VIII, in which the Miami Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings.
Recently, the stadium has become a major concert venue. Huge crowds were part of the excitement for the Pink Floyd, Eagles and Billy Joel and Elton John concerts in the stadium the last two years.
More than 8,600,000 fans have watched Rice Owls football at Rice Stadium.
Source: Rice University
Patrick Harris writes: "Jeppesen Stadium was owned by the Houston Independent School District and has no connection either by operation or proximity with Rice University. The Oilers DID play in Rice Stadium between the glorious, mud-filled campaigns of Jeppesen and the swelled knees and strawberried forearms of Harris County Stadium. Jeppesen played host to forty or fifty schoolboy games each week before George Blanda and company came in on Sunday. This action combined with mandatory Saturday rainstorms to produce the most photogenic interior line play in the history of football.
For REAL MEN, Rice Stadium may be the best anywhere. This assumes you are there to watch the ball game, not gawk at a fancy scoreboard. Rice Stadium is a graceful, clean construction of concrete and brick. The seats are plain old wood benches bolted to the structure, but the sightlines are the best anywhere. There's no track or other purpose to the facility. The seating starts very near the edge of the field. No matter where you sit, (all 70,000 of "you") there's an optical effect that the field just looks too short. It is because you never sat in a stadium with such well developed sighting. Rice is the most underrated sports facility anywhere.
Rice stadium had a very short construction time, with much sponsorship by the Brown & Root Construction company. At the time of construction of the 70,000 seat facility, the enrollment at Rice stood at something like 2,000. (And it's still not much more than that.) Rice FILLED that Stadium in November of 1956 (and maybe 57, too) with the
likes of Bear Bryant's Aggies and Darrell Royal's Longhorns playing there.
The Bluebonnet Bowl originated at Rice. Played there for years.
The Aggies agreed to play there EVERY year for one ten year stretch. Bear Bryant got a percentage of the gate during that negotiated term as A&M's agent for the deal, WHICH HE CONTINUED TO COLLECT for years after he bailed out on the Aggies.
When they played the Super Bowl at Rice, the visiting sports writers moaned for weeks about the accommodations, for which I have no sympathy whatever. The Rice press box serves outstanding barbecue, and if you are there to WATCH THE GAME there is no better way to get such a good view for 70,000 than Rice Stadium.
No school bias here, either. I graduated in Architecture from Texas A&M.
Gig 'em Aggies"
August 4, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Rice University is exploring options to upgrade its football facilities, including the possible
addition of a new end-zone complex at 60-year-old Rice Stadium, according to the Houston Chronicle. A proposal will be presented to school president David Leebron and board of trustees for approval by late September, athletic director Rick Greenspan told the newspaper.
RICE PREPARING STADIUM UPGRADE PLAN
October 20, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Houston, Texas - The Houston Chronicle says Rice University officials will unveil next month a
nearly $40 million project that includes the construction of a football complex and improvements to the 62-year-old stadium, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.
The stadium improvements and construction of a football complex are part of a larger-scale initiative that "will go toward the long-term revitalization of the football program," one person said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details.
A formal announcement of the project, which would represent the most significant financial commitment to the stadium since it was built, is expected in early November.
Under the proposal, which still must be approved by the school's board of trustees, the football complex would be built on the south side and not necessarily attached to the stadium. The current multi-level football complex is located in the south end zone and also includes the John L. Cox Fitness Center, an 8,000-square-foot strength and conditioning facility that opened in 1996.
A new football complex would house the school's football operations, including coaches' offices, locker rooms, meeting rooms, weight room, training areas and other student services and amenities, the newspaper said.
One person with knowledge of the details characterized the stadium improvements as deferred maintenance and not an overhaul of the existing stadium infrastructure.
Funding for the project has not yet been secured, the person added.
RICE CONFIRMS STADIUM PLANS
October 27, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Houston, Texas - Rice University officials have unveiled a plan to build a two-story football
facility at the south end of Rice Stadium, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The proposed 80,000-square-foot complex will house training and locker rooms, a sports
medicine center, offices for coaching staff and support personnel, and the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame, according to details released by the university.
"The new facility, plus other renovations to the south end zone, will make much-needed enhancements to this historic stadium and enhance the experience of our student-athletes and our Owls fans," Rice president David Leebron said. "We are hopeful that people who love and support Rice's wonderful football legacy - a legacy of high standards on the field of play and in the classroom Ð will help make these critical investments in the future of Rice football."
No price tag was given for the project, but two people with knowledge of the situation told the Chronicle earlier that construction of a football facility and other deferred maintenance to the 61-year-old stadium will cost close to $40 million.
The project, which represents the most significant financial commitment to the stadium since it was built in 1950, will be funded by private donations.
Approval is still needed by the school's board of trustees.
Under the proposed plan, the current facility in the south end zone Ð which also includes the R Room Ð will be demolished. A person familiar with the planning told the newspaper one idea being discussed involves constructing the football facility detached from the stadium.
"Rice Stadium is a beautiful and storied facility, but it is showing the wear and tear of its 61 years of age," Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan said. "Replacing the training and other facilities on the stadium's southern vista will go a long way toward restoring its luster and giving Rice football players and fans the kind of quality experience they expect from this university."
A pre-design study was conducted last summer, and university and athletic department officials worked with consultants from design firm AECOM to evaluate the stadium's facilities. The group also made visits to see facilities at other schools across the country.
RICE TRUSTEES APPROVE STADIUM PLAN
December 22, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Houston, Texas - The Houston Chronicle says the Rice University board of trustees
approved$44.5 million stadium project that will include construction of a two-story facility near the south end zone, eight luxury suites, a plaza area and other deferred maintenance to the 61-year-old venue.
No timetable was given for when construction could begin - funding must be secured - but unanimous support from university administration and athletic department officials allows Rice to begin "an aggressive campaign to make it a reality," athletic director Rick Greenspan said. "Hopefully this will dispel any erroneous thought that Rice isn't committed to or (doesn't) care about (Division) I-A football. We can have a very successful program here."
At the center of the project is an 80,000-square foot complex, to be built on the south side of the stadium, that includes training and locker rooms, a sports medicine center, offices for coaching staff and support personnel and the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame.
The present facility, near the south end zone, will be demolished and replaced with a plaza area that offers a "park-like environment." The current concourse in the south end zone will be dropped to street level to provide fans with a formal entryway into the stadium. The tunnel by which the team enters will remain.
The relocation of the facility allows the Owls to remain in the existing structure and not move any games off campus during construction, Greenspan said. After construction, the present facility will be demolished.
Along with the plaza, the next phase involves building eight luxury suites on the concourse level in the southeast and southwest corners of the stadium. The timetable for completion is about nine months and will not affect the present 47,000 seating capacity.
Included in the plan are new restrooms, ticket booths and maintenance work to the stadium's infrastructure, which has undergone minimal improvements since opening in 1950.
Funding will be through private donations. Greenspan would not disclose how much money has been raised, but said bonds will not be secured to pay for the cost of the project. Some of the funding could come through naming rights for parts of the facility and plaza.