The stadium economy in the state of Texas is booming.
Texas A&M is essentially building a brand new Kyle Field right now. TCU did the same with Amon Carter Stadium. Baylor, SMU, North Texas and Houston have built new stadiums. Texas, Texas Tech and Texas State have put significant work into their existing structures. Even FCS Abilene Christian and Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor have built new stadiums.
And then there’s Rice.
The Owls play in historic Rice Stadium, which opened in 1950, hosted a historic John F. Kennedy speech in 1962 and Super Bowl VIII in 1974. Problem is, Rice Stadium hasn’t changed much since then. The Owls have made the best of what they have, installing FieldTurf in 2006 and dropping capacity from 70,000 to a more realistic 47,000.
Still, Rice needs a home that matches the product it puts on the field. That Bailiff has posted two 10-win seasons, a Conference USA championship and now three straight bowl appearances speaks to his coaching ability. And now, thankfully, help is on the way.
The university has announced a $31.5 million end zone facility, which will begin construction toward the beginning of next year and open in time for the 2016 season. At 60,000 square feet, the facility will house a new weight room, locker room, coaching offices, a players lounge, meeting space, and all the other creature comforts of modern football headquarters. Athletics director Joe Karlgaard has described it as “the first in a series of upgrades to our stadium.”
Here’s the best part: final funding was secured through a former walk-on that became an Academic All-American and later made his fortune in the commercial real estate business in Poland.
It’s a start, and a start that was a long time coming.
(Photos courtesy @Chronicle_Owls)