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Facility Roundup: Houston and San Antonio

Friday, December 17th, 2010


Reliant Stadium (Houston Texans)

Photo courtesy of AP Images

The Skinny:  Reliant Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium that, in addition to the Reliant Astrodome and other structures, makes up Reliant Park. The first NFL stadium with a retractable roof, Reliant Stadium plays host to the Houston Texans and has also hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII, US Men’s National Soccer matches, the Houston Bowl and the Texas Bowl, two Big XII Championship Games and the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the stadium will hold the 2011 Final Four.

Year Opened:  2002

Capacity:  71,500

Best Moment:  September 8, 2002. The Texans played their inaugural game as a franchise and the first game at Reliant Stadium against the cross-state rival Dallas Cowboys. In front of 69,604 fans the Texans defeated the Cowboys 19-10.


Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)

Photo courtesy of

The Skinny:  The downtown ballpark home of the Houston Astros features a retractable roof and is connected to the historic Union Station. The Astros estimate that 60 percent of their fans enter the park through Union Station, and the stadium features a replica 19th century locomotive as an homage to the Union Station site. The unique field sports “Tal’s Hill” a 30-degree uphill slope in the center field warning track.

Year Opened:  2000

Capacity:  40,950

Long games:  In 2005, Minute Maid Park hosted the longest postseason game and the longest World Series games ever played. The longest game was an 18-inning, five hour and 50 minute victory for the Astros over the Atlanta Braves. Two weeks later, the Astros and Chicago White Sox battled to a 14-inning, five hour and 41 minute game that the White Sox won. It was the first World Series game played in the state of Texas.


Toyota Center (Houston Rockets)

The Skinny:  Both the Houston Rockets and AHL Houston Aeros call the Toyota Center home. The arena has become a premiere venue for concerts and events as well, being named as a finalist for the “Best New Concert Venue” award by Pollstar Magazine in 2004.

Year Opened:  2003

Capacity:  18,300

Record Attendance:  Houston Rockets fans packed the Toyota Center for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers on May 14, 2009. The Rockets defeated the Lakers 95-80 behind a crowd of 18,501, setting the single-game record in the arena.

AT&T Center (San Antonio Spurs)

The Skinny:  The arena opened prior to the 2002-03 NBA season as the home court of the San Antonio Spurs, who had been at the Alamodome since 1993. The stadiums also hosts the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars and the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, as well as high profile concerts, WWE events and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

Year Opened:  2002

Capacity:  18,581

Best Moment:  Since moving to the AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs have clinched two NBA championships on their home court. In their first season at the arena, the Spurs won Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals over the New Jersey Nets. Two years later, the Spurs topped the Detroit Pistons in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals, the first Game 7 since 1994.

College Football:

Robertson Stadium (Houston Cougars and MLS Houston Dynamo)

Photo courtesy of

The Skinny:  Robertson Stadium opened in 1942 and has undergone several renovations since that point, most notably in 1999, when a $6M gift added 20 luxury suites and increased capacity to 32,000. Currently, the Houston Cougars and MLS Houston Dynamo play home games at the stadium; the Cougars since 1998 and the Dynamo since 2006. The University of Houston is weighing options to replace Robertson Stadium, and the Dynamo are scheduled to move into a new downtown soccer-specific stadium in 2012.

Year Opened:  1942

Capacity:  32,000

The History: Robertson Stadium hosted high school football until the Houston Cougars called it home in 1946, playing there until 1950. After stints at Rice Stadium at the Astrodome, Houston moved back to Robertson Stadium in 1998. The expansion Houston Oilers of the American Football League began playing there in 1960 and did so until 1964. The 1960 and 1962 AFL Championship Games were held here, as the Houston Oilers faced the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Texans, respectively.

Rice Stadium (Rice Owls)

The Skinny:  Rice Stadium has seen a lot of football since it opened in 1950. It has hosted the Rice Owls since that season, and also hosted the Houston Cougars from 1951-64, the AFL’s Houston Oilers from 1965-67 and the Bluebonnet Bowl from 1959-67 and 1985-86. In addition, Rice Stadium, which underwent a $6M renovation in the spring of 1996, hosted Super Bowl VII, won by the Miami Dolphins 24-7 over the Minnesota Vikings.

Year Opened:  1950

Capacity:  47,000, expandable to 70,000

Historical Significance:  On September 12, 1962, Rice Stadium hosted a speech by President John F. Kennedy in which he challenged Americans to meet his goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade.

Kyle Field (Texas A&M Aggies)

Photo courtesy of

The Skinny:  Known as one of the most intimidating venues in college football, Kyle Field in College Station, Texas is nicknamed the Home of the 12th Man, an ode to Aggies fans. From “Midnight Yell” practice to kissing your date every time the Aggies score, Kyle Field offers a top-notch game experience. It is no wonder CBS Sports named it the best venue in college football.

Year Opened:  1927

Capacity:  82,600

Decade of Dominance: n the 1990s, Texas A&M was dominant at Kyle Field with a 55-4-1 (92.5 winning percentage) record. During that span, the Aggies put together two of the longest home winning streaks in school history, a 31-game winning streak from 1990-95 (fifth-largest in Division I-A history) and a 22-game winning streak from 1996-2000.

Darrell K. Royal Stadium (Texas Longhorns)

The Skinny:  Keeping in line with the “Everything is bigger in Texas” mantra, Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium offers a 55 x 134-foot HD display board, one of the nation’s largest. With over 100,000 fans in the stands each week, the stadium offers one of the largest crowds in college football. The Longhorns have won 77.9% of their games in this stadium since it opened through the 2010 season.

Year Opened:  1924

Capacity:  100,119

Fun Fact: On December 9, 1988, Darrell K. Royal Stadium was the site of the 5A state semifinal game between Dallas Carter High School and Odessa Permian (won by Carter 14-9) that was the center of the Buzz Bissinger book Friday Night Lights.

College Basketball:

Hofheinz Pavilion (Houston Cougars)

The Skinny:  Hofheinz Pavilion has low ceilings and theatre-style cushioned seats that encircle the arena, giving fans the feeling as though they are on top of the action with an unobstructed view. The University has announced its intention to undergo a $40M renovation to the Pavilion to expand and upgrade the facility. The Houston Cougars have called the multi-purpose facility home since 1969, and the Houston Rockets played home games here from 1971-75.

Year Opened:  1969

Capacity:  8,479

Phi Slama Jama:  The nickname of the Houston Cougars basketball team from 1982-84 was Phi Slama Jama, quickly adopted by players and media. The team featured future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, advancing to the NCAA Final Four three years in a row (1982-84).

Tudor Fieldhouse (Rice University)

The Skinny:  Previously known as Rice Gymnasium, Tudor Fieldhouse underwent a $23M renovation in 2008, which displaced the basketball team to the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas, Reliant Arena and the Toyota Center. The renovations have added a new sound system and scoreboard, as well as upgrading the concessions and restrooms.

Year Opened:  1950

Capacity:  5,208

Fun Fact: The arena was originally designated “Autry Court” in memory of Mrs. James L. Autry. Her husband James Lockhart Autry was a descendant of Micajah Autry, who was a hero of the Battle of the Alamo. Her daughter, Mrs. Edward W. Kelley, made a generous donation to the gymnasium building fund in honor of her late mother, an ardent supporter of Rice.

Reed Arena (Texas A&M Aggies)

The Skinny:  The Reed Rowdies help make the arena one of the most hostile in college basketball, similar to the atmosphere that has made football games at Kyle Field so popular. Reed Arena features parquet wood floors, and set a record attendance of 13,717 in a February 27, 2010 win over Texas.

Year Opened:  1998

Capacity:  12,989

Hurricane Relief: Reed Arena has served as a temporary shelter for evacuees during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike. It served as the temporary home to Tulane’s basketball team in 2005-06.

Erwin Center (Texas Longhorns)

The Skinny:  Often referred to as “The Drum” because of its drum-like appearance, the Erwin Center is Austin’s premiere venue for special events and concerts, as well as Texas Longhorns basketball, of course. A 2003 expansion and renovation added 28 seats and increased seating capacity to 16,734, as well as a new Jumbotron.

Year Opened:  1977

Capacity:  16,734

Fun Fact:  The first sellout and largest crowd at the Erwin Center do not belong to Texas basketball. Lawrence Welk was the first sellout of the arena on March 12, 1978, and the largest crowd showed up for John Denver on May 6, 1978 to the tune of 17,829 fans.



Photo courtesy of

The Skinny:  The Alamodome in San Antonio played host to the San Antonio Spurs from 1993-2002, and has hosted the Alamo Bowl since 1993 and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl since 2002. The New Orleans Saints played games in the dome in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina displaced them from the Louisiana Superdome. The dome also hosted the Final Four in 1998, 2004 and 2008, the NBA All-Star Game in 1996, and three Big XII Championship Games.

Year Opened:  1993

Capacity:  65,000, expandable to 72,000

New Tenant:  The University of Texas-San Antonio has added a football program to begin as a Division I-AA independent in 2011, with the plan to move to Division I-A in 2014. They are led by former Miami Hurricanes national championship-winning head coach Larry Coker, and will play home games at the Alamodome.

Top Sports Power Weekends: Houston & San Antonio

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Below are the Sports Power Weekend options in Houston and the surrounding area in the coming months. Please visit the Houston & San Antonio City Guide page for information on activities and events in these cities on days that do not have sporting events.

For more information on booking a travel package to Houston or San Antonio, please contact us at

April 1-3 Friday
  • Spurs at Rockets
  • Shell Houston Open
  • Final Four
  • Shell Houston Open
  • Hawks at Rockets
  • Suns at Spurs
  • Shell Houston Open
  • NCAA Finals
April 8-10 Friday
  • Marlins at Astros
  • Marlins at Astros
  • Clippers at Rockets
  • Jazz at Spurs
  • Marlins at Astros
  • Whitecaps at Dynamo
April 15-17 Friday
  • Padres at Astros
  • Valero Texas Open, San Antonio
  • Padres at Astros
  • Valero Texas Open, San Antonio
  • Padres at Astros
  • Valero Texas Open, San Antonio
  • Revolution at Dynamo
April 22-24 Friday
April 29-May 1 Friday
  • Brewers at Astros
  • DC United at Dynamo
  • Brewers at Astros
  • Brewers at Astros

Sports Power Weekend: Greater-Houston Area, Texas, November 5-7

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Texas, the only state that was previously its own republic (1836-45), arguably has the most unique history of all the states of our great nation, and any true native Texan will be quick to politely stand by that notion.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

In addition to its intriguing past, it ranks second in the U.S. in geographic size and population and hosts three of the country’s 10 most populous cities.  Topping this trio is Houston, host of the fourth-most people in the nation and a number of great Sports Power Weekend opportunities.

Texas sports are frequently depicted in the media – fictionally, factually and sometimes a combination of the two – but you will appreciate having a personal taste of the Lone Star State’s high-level action on and off the often-discussed football fields.

One of the strongest aspects of your Sports Power Weekend is that there is a bounty of athletic, entertainment and dining options in the area.  From high school football under the Friday night lights to the Texans game on Sunday and hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants to five-star eateries, the choices in the greater-Houston area are practically endless.

Just make sure to rent a car for the weekend even if aiming to stay within the city limits.  The locals will tell you that everything is a “20-minute drive away,” but each jaunt is well worth the time spent behind the wheel.

As is the case with all Sports Power Weekends, determining which events to attend plays a key role in your trip, and this journey is no different.  Interestingly enough, the most influential decision affecting your time Houston this weekend involves an entirely different city – College Station, Texas, the home of Texas A&M University.

Although educators in Austin are typically referred to as the operators of the state’s flagship school, Texas A&M was the first public institution of higher learning established between the Rio Grande, Sabine and Red Rivers.  In 1876, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas opened its doors before becoming the 38,000-plus research-intensive campus that exists today.

After over 130 years, it is no surprise that the Texas Aggies have a multitude of distinct traditions.  Every person joining the student body is taught the story behind each at a special separate orientation that is appropriately named “Fish Camp,” and among the many highlighted is Midnight Yell.

Texas A&M began hosting yell practices – Aggies never “cheer;” they yell – in the early 1900’s, but the first official Midnight Yell was held in a campus dorm in 1931 prior to that year’s game against ‘t.u.,’ a school most college fans refer to as the University of Texas (as the first school of higher learning in Texas, A&M does not call the Longhorns’ institution THE state’s university but instead another Texas university).

Midnight Yell occurs every Friday night at Kyle Field before each Aggie home game as well as at local sites for away contests.  Several thousand supporters show up to the stadium for the event prior to home games, and it truly is a great experience for anyone who has a deep appreciation for the unique atmosphere that only a college campus can provide.

For the purpose of a well-rounded Sports Power Weekend, this agenda highlights an initial evening in Houston that limits Friday travel and highlights increased nightlife options, but a night at yell practice is a solid choice, especially if you’re lucky with your lighter when it’s time to “flick your Bic” when it is complete.


  • The Taste of Texas
  • High school football game
  • Main Street

Thanks to Houston’s location, it is a hotbed for all types of food, especially when looking for a hearty steak, true Southwestern barbeque, fresh seafood or authentic Tex-Mex.  The quantity of quality cuisines is only outnumbered by the amount of superb dining choices; so don’t be afraid to be adventurous if you have a hankering for something particular.

However, if you ever are in a bind and need a failsafe option throughout the weekend, there are two exceptional groups of Houston-born restaurant families that are scattered throughout the area: Goode Co. and Pappas. Each has easily accessible locations that cover a wide range of food fare, including Pappasitos (Tex-Mex) and Pappadeaux (Cajun/seafood) as well as Goode Co. Seafood and Goode Co. BBQ.  All Houstonians are familiar at minimum with these family chains, and I don’t know one who hasn’t had a pleasant experience.

For a true taste of Texas on your first night, there is no better destination than one that is named just that: The Taste of Texas (10505 Katy Freeway). The establishment sends steaks and pies nationwide, and in 22+ years of experience – my first visit was at two-months old – I’ve always left in an overly-full state of bliss.

The food is incredible and dining there is a true Texas experience. The classy, home-style ambiance is loaded with artifacts relating to Texas history and sports; so much so, the Hende family, who owns the place and is comprised of great all-around people, offers tours that focus on Texas history during non-operating hours to local elementary school students.

After eating your hand-picked steak from the butcher’s counter – don’t leave without a slice of homemade pecan pie with Blue Bell cinnamon ice cream and/or a cinnamon coffee – head to a local high school football stadium or downtown for drinks.

As easily guessed by Houston’s size, it clearly isn’t a place that shuts down entirely for Friday night games as the movies portray about smaller towns in Texas.  High school contests still have great energy, especially as teams will be preparing for the ensuing Texas state playoffs.  A list of games is available thanks the to Houston Chronicle, but the weekend’s biggest game doesn’t occur until Saturday morning.

Late-night downtown options are plentiful with numerous bars and nightclubs. For a casual drink before a full Saturday, check out the Main Street area where Flying Saucer, which boasts more than 200 beers, and Molly’s Pub are two good options to cap the evening.


  • The Buffalo Grille
  • College Station

o   Chicken Oil Company or Freebirds or Layne’s
o   George H. W. Bush (No. 41) Presidential Library and Museum
o   Kyle Field
o   Texas Roadhouse
o   North Gate

  • Houston

o   Rhodes Memorial Stadium
o   Houston Museum of Natural Science/Holocaust Museum Houston/NASA
o   Pappasitos
o   Goode Co. Barbeque Armadillo Palace

Start the day early with breakfast at The Buffalo Grille (3116 Bissonnet), a popular early-morning eatery with Mexican breakfast combos, larger-than-life breakfast burritos and pancakes possessing diameters of over 12 inches.  Just get there around 9:00 am because the line gets long early throughout the week but even more so during the weekend.

After breakfast, it’s time to get prepared for football as usual, whether it’s in Houston or College Station.

College Station

Photo courtesy of

Aggieland is a great place for a full college gameday so head north on Highway 6 to start the 90-minute trip.  The Aggies host its official Maroon Out game at 6:00 pm against No. 11 Oklahoma, and the official 12th MAN will be in full form for the primetime duel.  Take a quick pit stop in Navasota if you need to grab a coke or drive through a What-A-Burger and shortly after you’ll arrive in Bryan-College Station.

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, the best midday local food choices include the Chicken Oil Co., a tradition-rich burger shop that doubled as a gas station when it opened in 1977; Freebirds, a regional chain that serves burritos sized comparably to the length of a familiar Lynard Skynard song; or Layne’s, the Aggie-owned and operated home of the “soon-to-be famous chicken fingers.”

After satisfying the stomach, it’s time to feed the mind with a tour of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  There are plenty of intriguing pieces from Bush tenure as the 41st President, including quality documentation of US involvement in the Gulf War.

Next get ready for the Aggies’ most anticipated home game of 2010 by heading towards Kyle Field after filling the cooler with Lone Star beer or Shiner, an extremely popular brewmaster that takes its name from its hometown in southeast Texas.

Prior to the game the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets will march into the stadium, led by the First Lady of Aggieland, a female collie named Reveille.  Then its time to hope the team puts up a lot of points because when the Aggies score so does the home crowd; it’s tradition to kiss your date after every point registered.

After the game, grab some great bread and a rack of ribs at Texas Roadhouse before hopefully celebrating a victory on North Gate.  The student body regularly fills this bar scene, and its where the campus’ most revered bar, the Dixie Chicken, is located.


Staying in Houston, the No. 3 Katy Tigers (9-0) face off against No. 13 Cinco Ranch (9-0) at 11:00 am at Rhodes Memorial Stadium with the District 19-5A title on the line in the final game of the regular season.  The Tigers, who have won the Texas 5A Division II state title two (2007, 2008) out of the past three years, have a rabid, loyal fan base that in its best showings can rival a small college atmosphere, especially in such a pivotal contest like this.

For a more cultural experience, the Houston Holocaust Museum and the Houston Museum of Natural Science are of the highest caliber. To truly experience “Space City,” you won’t have a problem if your destination is NASA’s Johnson Space Center, although it is a 40-minute commute from the heart of Houston.  NASA’s presence in Houston contributed to naming the city’s sports teams the “Astros” and the “Rockets.”

Now it’s time to experience some great Tex-Mex at Pappasitos, which also has great, well-priced margaritas.  Order a platinum margarita with the seafood enchiladas or your choice of a south-of-the-border beer with any fajita plate, including the Matamoros combo, which offers a half-rack of pork ribs and an order of chicken fajitas for one with all the fixings.

After eating, you can saddle up almost anywhere to watch the A&M-OU game or see the University of Texas play Kansas State.  Sam’s Boat and Texadelphia are just two options of many.

Close the night out with a chopped beef sandwich at Goode Co. barbeque while watching the late games or stepping into the restaurant’s Armadillo Palace across the street, where you can catch some live Texas country music.


  • Brennan’s brunch
  • Reliant Stadium
  • Little Woodrow’s
  • Toyota Center

Photo courtesy of AP Images

Sunday morning brunch at Brennan’s, an elegant restaurant that offers a delicious New-Orleans style brunch, is a perfect way to prepare for the Texans’ game against the San Diego Chargers at Reliant Stadium.

When you arrive to tailgate at Reliant Park, be sure to catch a glance of the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Houston Astrodome.  The Astrodome is far removed from its glory days when it was the modern marvel constructed in 1965, but as a sports fan you should at least get a first-hand glimpse of the world’s first domed sports stadium.

After the Texans-Chargers game, Little Woodrow’s (2306 Brazos St.) will provide a great environment for the late afternoon games and is less than two miles from the Toyota Center.

In the newest professional arena in Houston, the Rockets take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in their third home game of the season.  The Toyota Center is also home to the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros.