Rice University - Rice Stadium
One of America's great stadiums, celebrating its 56th season in 2005, 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 an overall enrollment of 4,320.
The largest on-campus facility in Conference USA, Rice Stadium undergoes continuing improvement. In 1997, the Owls and their opponents played on a new AstroTurf playing surface in the Stadium, and the Owls practice on two new grass practice fields immediately north of the complex. Rice fans are also enjoying new state-of-the-art scoreboards and message centers installed in 1996, while Rice players were afforded the comfort of a major locker room renovation. In addition, sports medicine and equipment areas were refurbished. The future will see significant renovations in the public areas of the stadium, including restrooms and concessions.
The most significant recent addition to the stadium complex is the John L. Cox Fitness Center. The 8,000-square-foot strength and conditioning complex, used by all Rice athletes as well as the general student body, opened in early 1996. It is one of the premier college facilities in the nation.
The Owls and their opponents have also played under a new lighting system since 1995, enabling the return of night games to the Stadium.
The Stadium has a storied history, borne from the University's football tradition. Fifty-three years ago, Rice fielded one of its greatest teams. The 1949 Owls, led by all-Americas Froggy Williams and Joe Watson, won the Southwest Conference championship and the 1950 Cotton Bowl with a 10-1 record. The Owls posted an 8-4 overall record, their best record since 1950. In that span, Rice was 5-0 at home.
However, old Rice Stadium (now the Rice Track/Soccer Stadium) seated less than 37,000 fans. Houston's civic leaders decided the old structure was not a proper venue for the SWC champions, much less a city with a future so bright. The idea for the new Rice Stadium was born.
Brown & Root Constructors was the general contractor for the project and the groundbreaking was held in February 1950. Working 24-hour shifts for the next nine months, Brown & Root completed the stadium in time for the 1950 season opener in late September. In the opening game on Sept. 30, 1950, Rice defeated Santa Clara 27-7.
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 are among the finest in the WAC. Offices for the Owls' coaching staff and football meeting rooms are also located in 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. On Jan. 13, 1974, Rice Stadium was the site of Super Bowl VIII, in which the Miami Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7.
The Stadium has also held major concerts. Huge crowds were part of the excitement for the Pink Floyd, Eagles, Elton JohnBilly Joel, and George Strait concerts in recent years.
More than 10,000,000 fans have watched Rice Owls football at Rice Stadium.