Rice to build new multipurpose indoor athletics facility

The Rice University Board of Trustees has approved a proposal for an air-supported multipurpose facility on the west side of Rice Stadium that will offer climate-protected space for varsity athletics training, campus recreation and Rice student events, activities and community partner events.

waltripThe 80,000-square-foot structure will allow Rice coaches to dynamically and consistently integrate practice times into student-athlete academic schedules and be versatile enough to host major campus events such as commencement and convocation.

Service Corporation International (SCI) founder and chairman emeritus Robert L. Waltrip ’53 provided the lead gift for the facility. Arizon Building Systems will build and install the structure, Anslow Bryant Construction will provide site preparation and infrastructure and AstroTurf will provide the playing surface. Plans call for construction to be completed by Sept. 1.

“I am grateful to be in the position to support this facility, which will have such a positive impact for student-athletes and the entire Rice community,” Waltrip said. “My connection to Rice began when I was young and my father would take me to football games at the old Rice Field. That connection stayed with me through my college years and into my adulthood. This is my hometown school and I will always be proud to be a Rice Owl.”

Waltrip received a full football scholarship under coach Jess Neely and matriculated with the Class of 1953. However, after the unexpected passing of his father, he left Rice to assume management of the family’s funeral home business. Waltrip began buying additional funeral homes in the 1960s, amassing a network that would grow to include more than 2,100 funeral service locations and cemeteries. SCI, which he took public in 1969, is now North America’s largest single provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services.

Waltrip completed his education at the University of Houston, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“We are grateful for Bob’s tremendous support of our student-athletes through his lead gift for this facility,” said Joe Karlgaard, Rice director of athletics, recreation and lifetime fitness. “Bob has remained steadfast in his love for Rice Athletics and this gift is another testament of his incredible generosity towards our programs.”

The facility, which is to be named the Robert L. Waltrip Indoor Training Center, continues Rice’s commitment to adding new facilities and enhancing existing ones.

In the past five years alone, Rice has:

  • Constructed and opened the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center.
  • Dedicated the newly built George R. Brown Tennis Center.
  • Renovated the Wendel D. Ley Track, which included construction of a new grandstand, enclosed press box, public restrooms and team rooms.
  • Installed new video boards at Reckling Park and Rice Stadium.
  • Constructed a new indoor batting facility and indoor/outdoor hospitality area at Reckling Park.
  • Upgraded and renovated Tudor Fieldhouse, including the addition of dedicated locker rooms for soccer, golf and men’s and women’s track and field and cross country, renovations to the basketball locker rooms, lounge and offices and upgrades to facilitate high-quality digital broadcasts. Tudor also added an indoor golf practice facility.

“This will substantially improve the student-athlete experience while also benefiting the entire campus community,” Karlgaard said. “At Rice we are committed to providing students the tools they’ll need to be successful in the classroom and on the field.”

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.