Rice football stadium has the capacity for 47 thousand fans, but the Owls have struggled to fill it up over the last several years.
Old Rice Stadium held less than 37,000 people. While it served its purpose at the time, the defending Southwest Conference Champions needed something grander. The Owls historic 1949 season included an undefeated conference record, a Cotton Bowl win and a No. 5 ranking in the final AP Poll. The banner year led to the proposal and construction of a brand new stadium which was ready for the season opener next September — the Owls won.
That new stadium was built to seat 70,000 people. At the time, it was the second-largest stadium in the SWC, trailing only the Cotton Bowl in size. Since it’s creation it hosted Super Bowl VII (1974), the Bluebonnet Bowl (1959-67, 85-56) and the Houston Oilers (1965-67). In 2006 tarps were brought in, reducing the normal seating capacity to 47,000.
Even the reduced seating has been more than enough since it was installed. According to the NCAA’s latest figures, Rice brought in 96,770 in total attendance last season. When averaged across the Owls’ five home games that comes out to 19,354 attendees per game. Filling all 70,000 seats is a long way off, but the new direction of the program and the home game against Houston should get the Owls headed in the right direction on the attendance front.
As recently as 2016 the Owls’ student section was setting attendance records. The 1,830 students that came to the Owls opener against Baylor that year were the most at a single home game since 2008. Many of those same students are still around. They, along with some new classmates, can help jumpstart a new era of full stadiums for Rice football. It’s not going to happen overnight, but there’s plenty of room in the future.
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