Rice trustees approve new football facility
The Rice University Board of Trustees approved a $44.5 million proposal Thursday to build a new two-story football facility at the south end of Rice Stadium and to improve the stadium facilities and experience. The project is contingent on fundraising.
The new 80,000-square-foot structure will house training and locker rooms, the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame, a sports medicine center for all student-athletes, offices for the coaching and support staffs and a room for news conferences and other meetings. The proposal includes plans to upgrade parts of the stadium by demolishing the structures currently at the south end, including the R Room that houses the Hall of Fame, replacing restrooms and ticket booths, and building eight suites in the south zone.
“We’ve seen the benefits of recent investments in the basketball, baseball, volleyball and track facilities, and Rice’s football program is in line for similar support from the many alumni and fans who value what this means for the student-athletes and the university,” said Jim Crownover, chair of the Rice board.
“This new facility and the renovations to the south end zone will enhance the historic stadium where President John Kennedy delivered his famous speech about going to the moon,” Rice President David Leebron said. “While our Owls fans both on campus and in the community will enjoy these improvements, the main beneficiaries will be our student-athletes, who consistently demonstrate their competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. They contribute immensely to our student body and the Rice experience.”
The Rice football team has been consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top programs in terms of graduation success, while also earning a pair of bowl berths in the last six years. The Owls have been honored for their graduation rates by the American Football Coaches Association 22 times in the last 23 years and received the organization’s highest honor, the Academic Achievement Award, in 2010.
Rick Greenspan, director of athletics, recreation and fitness, noted that Rice Stadium is showing the wear and tear of its 61 years. Previous upgrades to the stadium have included a new playing surface, a new video board and scoreboard, and aluminum benches to replace the wooden bleachers.
“The board’s approval of our new football facility reflects Rice’s commitment to Division 1-A athletics as the university enters its second century,” Greenspan said.
“Rice Athletics is known for its athletic achievements, academic excellence, successful careers of its graduates, and its leadership and integrity,” he said. “I am confident that our former players who love Rice football, as well as our loyal fans who are dedicated to Rice athletics, will make the critical investments to continue and enhance the efforts of our young men and women who pursue championships in competition and excellence in the classroom each and every day.”
Greenspan said the football proposal is part of a larger vision being developed for Rice Athletics that entails enhancements for other sports, including tennis and soccer, and additional scholarships for student-athletes.
Rice Stadium opened in 1950 and has been the site of many historic events for the university, the city of Houston and the country. On Sept. 12, 1962, in Rice Stadium, Kennedy issued his historic challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
The stadium has served as the home base for the Bluebonnet Bowl, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and the NFL’s Houston Oilers. One of only three existing on-campus facilities where a Super Bowl has been held, the stadium hosted Super Bowl VIII on Jan. 13, 1974, in which the Miami Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. More than 10 million fans have watched Rice Owls football in Rice Stadium over the years.
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Editor’s note: An artist’s conceptual rendering of Rice Stadium with the proposed football facility is available at http://media.rice.edu/images/media/stadium.jpg.