Rice Athletics has its bubble. After more than a year of waiting, the Waltrip Indoor Training center has been inflated and will soon be ready for use.
Originally announced last summer, the Waltrip Indoor Training Center is nearing completion. For the first time, the bubble, as it is more often referred to, began being inflated on Friday morning. It’s expected to be permanently inflated in the coming weeks.
The inflation process capped off an extended construction period that was delayed by electrical issues a year ago and a pandemic this spring.
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The structure is named after Robert L. Waltrip. The lead gift giver, Waltrip was recruited to Rice under head coach Jess Neely in 1953. The center stands adjacent to Historic Rice Stadium in the attached parking lot. In his original statement so many months ago, Waltrip voiced his excitement for the project:
“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.”
The inflatable indoor facility is yet another infrastructure addition for Rice Athletics in recent history. The Brian Patterson center was the most recent new construction, completed in the Fall of 2016. That, combined with the bubble, will help keep Rice in the arms race that is modern college athletics recruiting.
Further renovations to the stadium itself were under consideration prior to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in recent months. There is no set timetable for those changes at this time. When the time is right, they will be at the forefront for consideration.