Monday, August 13, 2012

An early look at the new UH football stadium

The 2012 University of Houston football season is almost here. Fall practices began last week and the first game is less than three weeks away. (The team also unveiled new helmets, which the Houston Press does not like.) Needless to say, I am excited. I'll begin work on my season preview shortly and expect to have it posted a few days before kickoff.

However, the most noteworthy football-related news coming from the UH campus this week has nothing to do with the season that is about to begin but will have everything to do with UH football from 2014 onward. This Wednesday the University of Houston System Board of Regents will meet, and one of their agenda items is to approve the negotiation and execution of a contract "up to $85 million for the design and construction of Phase One of the New Football Stadium at the University of Houston." The BOR agenda is here; scroll down to page 154 to see the actual agenda item, which reads in part:
Phase One will include approximately 500,000 GSF including approximately 30,000 seats, press box facilities, locker rooms, meeting rooms, concessions, central commissary, restrooms, ticket facilities, scoreboard, lighting package, shell space for future build-out of premium seating facilities (i.e. suites, club and loge boxes) and an approximately 25,000 GSF academic services building to support the marching band program.
 A couple of things of note:
  • The stadium that is to be completed in 2014 is supposed to cost $105 million and seat 40,000, so I'm assuming that a $20 million "Phase Two" covering the build-out of the premium seating facilities (totaling 10,000 seats?) will be approved at a subsequent BOR meeting. I'm guessing that the construction of the entire stadium has to be separated into two separate contracts for financial or administrative reasons. 

  • New stadium will have east-west orientation
  • Unlike most outdoor football stadiums whose fields are oriented north-south, this new football stadium's field will be oriented east-west. At least, that's according to the site plan that is included in the BOR agenda materials (I've reproduced it on the right, adding labels for buildings and streets as well as showing the alignment of the Southeast Line light rail, in green). While east-west fields are not unheard of - Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State and Sanford Stadium at Georgia are well-known examples - the glare of the afternoon sun and its effect on the players may become an issue. That's probably why there's no gap in the southwest corner of the upper tier of seating; the gaps in the northeast and southeast corners provide ventilation, and the big gap in the northwest corner will provide a view of downtown, but the continuous seating along the southeast corner will serve to block out the setting sun. No word yet on why an east-west configuration was chosen.
Of course, the stadium design has only been underway for a few months at this point and so everything, including the site plan, is preliminary. We'll know more in the coming months as new renderings and more details are released. According to the BOR agenda item, construction is still on schedule to begin following completion of the upcoming season in December, with the new stadium being ready in July of 2014.

Since this is the final football season for the existing Robertson Stadium, the Chronicle's Joseph Duarte is asking for everybody's top memories of the stadium. I'll have my own thoughts on that subject later this year.


niki said...

Do you have any idea where they are going to play next season? I can't find that anywhere?

Thomas said...

Niki: My understanding is that UH has been negotiating with Reliant Stadium for the 2013 season. A deal still has not been finalized, however.