November 19, 2001
House of Posh
by Keith Weiland
Houston owner Bob McNair opened the doors to the Texans’ unfinished home on Sunday, November 18, letting fans assess the construction progress and envision its completion.
Before beginning the self-guided open house tour, fans first made a long walk to the neighboring Reliant Astrodome, which, with its torn and faded seats, has started showing its age. Next, they signed a waiver form and then trudged a few more steps across a sandy, and sometimes muddy, surface to inspect the new real estate from field level.
Former Houston Oilers linebacker Robert Lyles best portrayed the Astrodome when he labeled his team’s home “The House of Pain.” Judging by the reactions of Texans’ fans exploring Reliant Stadium, pain was the farthest thing from their minds.
“It looks awesome!” said fan Yolanda Rios, following her tour.
Reliant Stadium will be the first structure with a retractable roof in the NFL, a design characteristic not to be taken lightly on the Gulf Coast during hurricane season. The first parts of the translucent roof were seen on Sunday from atop the north endzone. Just one of many aesthetic qualities, the fabric roof will help make Houston’s newest sports facility unique.
“I like the roof,” said fan Charlie Randall.
HOK Sport designed Reliant Stadium with the fan experience in mind, the result of which is a close arena feel in a mammoth football stadium. It will also feature 50-foot wide concourses, food courts, and interactive kiosks.
“It’s more open and has more glass,” Rios said.
The new suites will be nearer to the field of play than any other in the league, and ninety feet closer than the luxury suites in the Astrodome.
“I like that its seats are close to the field,” said fan Doug Hughes. “I don’t need binoculars. It’s a lot better than the Dome.”
And for those missing the old Astrodome scoreboard Oilers owner Bud Adams removed in the late eighties in favor of more seats and luxury boxes, Reliant Stadium will boast the largest scoreboards in the NFL.
“The scoreboards will be cool,” said fan Harry Chrisman, envisioning their future placement in each endzone.
The facility will seat 69,500 fans at capacity and has already come a long way in the construction process.
“The biggest challenge so far has been putting 55 million pounds of steel up in the air, and getting it in the right spot,” said Butch Dudley, a Reliant Stadium construction worker fielding fan questions during the tour.
Currently, construction crews are taking down the cranes and moving them out one at a time. They will finish the roof from the outside.
“The next milestone in the project will be to get all the foundations laid in the ground,” said Dudley.
Seats won’t be added until 2002, but for those with super-size posteriors, the sold-out club seats are padded at an extra-wide 21 inches. High rollers will be comfortable knowing the seats outside the suites will be even wider at 24 inches.
Other advantages Reliant Stadium will have over the Astrodome include three times as many women’s restrooms and twice as many men’s restrooms. Long lines for food and drinks may also be a distant memory. Twice the number of concession stands are planned, which works out to roughly one for every 125 fans.
Sunday was just the beginning of what should be a great new home for Houston football.
“It was fun,” said Randall. “I had a good time, and I’m looking forward to the new stadium.”
Perhaps Emily, Randall’s three-year old daughter, summed up the new stadium the best.
“It was neat!”