In a state where "football is a religion," it can be expected that a game at Reliant Stadium is "electric." But as many fans openly admit, they're "still learning to go crazy" as the Texans' track record has left fans begging: "Please do something, anything ? give us something to work with here." Since the team's franchise opener against the Cowboys in 2002 -- a game that "set a decibel record" -- created "migraines two minutes into the first quarter it was so loud," the enthusiasm has steadily declined. Still, there are many dedicated fans, particularly in the Bull Pen up top "where the not-so-conservative people" and "true fans are, hooting and hollering." The lower levels are "more of a place to be seen and not heard" and the spectators are often viewed as those "who consider it a status symbol" to watch the games. And even with an infiltration of opposing fans often "makes the stadium feel 60 percent Texans to 40 percent visitors" most game days, "this is Texas. [They] love football." Despite the team's lack of success, the fans are "loud and boisterous," and "even when they played the Titans, the fans were still behind their Texans as much as they were rooting for Vince Young."
7 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (21 oz.)
Beer (21 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
Like most professional stadiums, there's the typical pricey, Aramark-catered ballpark grub, such as hot dogs, pizza, nachos, sodas and beer. But there are many specialty kiosks from local restaurants, among the most notable being Prince's hamburgers and French fried shrimp. Hot dogs are taken up a notch with sausage dogs and the lite beers are challenged with local microbreweries, such as Shiner beer, and margaritas. And "if you look hard enough, you can get a 24 oz. beer for $1 more than a 16 oz." Mexican taquerias serve up more authentic tasting nachos and Cuervo Cantina, a seated bar on the south field level concourse serves "the freshest fajitas in the stadium" Of course, "the club level rocks," if you can afford it. With posh lounges and flat-screen televisions, Reliant's clubs are "better than nightclubs" on Sundays. The Verizon Wireless Club on the east section even has a wait staff on hand so "you don't have to leave your seat." However, given the huge tailgating scene, there are many who "don't usually have much, just beer and peanuts" to hold them off "until it's time to go back to the parking lot to tailgate again."
7 out of 10
Reliant Stadium is located in the heart of downtown Houston just off Interstate 610 and in a web of several major highways, but the lack of exits clogs the 610 ramp quickly. Given the circumstances that "Houston traffic is awful as it is, but throw in 75,000 people cramming into one large parking lot with three entrances," congestion is almost unavoidable. However, there are many alternatives to driving. The Houston METRORail "helps get the non-tailgating crowd in much quicker," and brings spectators from all around downtown and drops them off right at the stadium. For the industrious sorts, the simplicity of the METRORail -- "METRORail and beer = easy" -- the commute is anything but troublesome. There are also city buses and cabs. Most have found the easiest way to avoid the congestion is simply to arrive very early for tailgating and "avoid the after-game traffic by having a drink or looking through the stores." Overall, the commute "is easy because you know everyone on the road is going to the game," but many are left baffled that "they could have caught a high school game two days earlier with less traffic and better football."
6 out of 10
"Given that it was prohibited when the Oilers were in town, people now have jumped on the opportunity" to tailgate. Texas is home to some of the best barbecue and a lot of southern hospitality, where "the smell of barbecue fills the air and, even if you don't know anyone, you still feel as if you're just going to the game with your buddies." A "sea of tents, extravagant barbecue pits, double-decker buses, live bands, DJs, shot blocks ? and some of the best brisket you will ever eat," and not to mention the "Miller Lite girls driving around in golf carts passing out Miller Lite and Texans gear," create an atmosphere that make it "sometimes better just to hang outside rather than go into the games." The stadium has taken note of that, and the new Texas phenomenon "is highly encouraged" by the Texans organization. Tailgaters allowed to purchase parking passes even if they don't have game tickets. Tailgater of the Week" and "Tailgater of the Year" have become "very prestigious awards to receive." The party spills over into the post-game with plenty of beer and food still available for hours following. "It's really an awesome thing to witness."
As hoards of fans make their way toward Reliant Stadium, the sight from the freeways is "just a magnificent beauty in every way" as it "dwarfs the Eight Wonder of the World [the AstroDome] next door." Reliant was the first NFL stadium with a retractable roof when it opened in 2002 and it still has fans oohing and ahhing. Statues of charging bulls are scattered around the stadium, representing the spirit of the fans, but it seems the true spirit is found in the gated section at the south end of the stadium: Budweiser Plaza. Live bands, including the Bull Pen Pep Band, and food and drinks before and after the game create the tailgating and party atmosphere expected of Texas. For kids, the Coca-Cola Fanatic Fun Zone offers special activities and music, too. Inside the glass structure, all 71,500 seats are so close to the field that "you can smell the grass" making every view "fantastic -- even from the nose bleeds." Four large bars and 16 smaller ones, big screens above both end zones, an HD JumboTron that is "lord knows how many feet big," concourses "so big that the lines [for food] aren't crowded," scoreboards with fantasy football updates throughout the mezzanines, escalators that lead to the top of the stadium and 196 luxury suites that have a "Texan feel to them ? like classy western bars." And, although the game is on the field, the rafters have their own excitement with some unique pre-game, acrobatic performances from the Texans cheerleaders and mascot, Toro, who has been known to leap from the top of the stadium only to be caught by a bungee cord at the last second. But what really has Texan fans enthused about their new digs is "No Bud Adams ... always a plus!!"
9 out of 10
In the heart of Houston's business district and just blocks from the Texas Medical Center, Reliant Stadium is "right on the cusp between a really nice part of town and the worst ghetto." It is relatively safe -- "you can walk around the stadium and not get mugged" -- and the "semi-slummy" area is certainly up and coming. Linked to downtown via the METRORail, Reliant Park, which includes four facilities for sports and entertainment, is a hub of redevelopment in Houston and many new housing facilities have sprouted and the area has "come a long way in the last decade or so." Many are thankful that the Six Flags Astroworld is gone, making the area "a bit more sterile," but the run-down half of the stadium's surroundings still has some describing the neighborhood as "a dump and a freeway."
3 out of 10
For $450 million, it seems Houston got what it paid for -- a luxury, state-of-the-art entertainment facility that is "so much better than when Bud was here." The neighboring AstroDome has become a sheer embarrassment as the soul Texas has been revived with the re-introduction, and encouraging, of tailgating to Houston fans. "Before, it was just a football game," but not so anymore. The fans are hospitable in their tailgating ways, never shooing away the frequent tailgating grazers and welcoming any and all as family. The Oilers set the bar low for Houston fans, and the game day experience at Reliant is rocketing toward one of the best in the nation. But there's still just one thing missing, especially for a state that prides itself as a football powerhouse at all levels: "Now we need a team to go with our stadium!"
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