Stadium Cheat Sheet

The Houston stadium tour cheat sheet Part 4: NRG Stadium

Where to park, pregrame, drink, and more at NRG Stadium. NRG Park/Facebook

This is part four of the Houston stadium series. You can find part one — Minute Maid Park — here, part two — Toyota Center — here and part three — BBVA Compass here.

In 2002 Houston re-emerged in the NFL with a shiny new stadium and the most generic team name in the league. Fifteen full seasons later and the Texans laugh at our face as Houstonians blindly pack NRG Stadium — every weekend of every season — despite an all-time franchise win percentage of 44. In 15 seasons these guys have produced two double-digit win seasons. But football, am I right?

I will preface this article by admitting that I don’t go to a ton of Texans games. I do root for them, and I do watch the games, I just can’t justify going. As far as football is concerned, it is my personal preference that watching the game on the patio of a comfortable bar with a few friends in the fall is a much better experience than the all-day experience of a Texans game at NRG.

No one simply shows up for the game. You’ve got to fight traffic to get there, arrive early enough to tailgate, go to the game, fight an hour of traffic just to get out of the parking lot, and then add on the actual travel time home because no one who can afford to do this regularly lives near the stadium. But I digress. Football, am I right?

So you’ve decided you want to go see DeShaun Watson toss some touchdowns for your favorite team in the world. Maybe you’re going in hopes that we’ll finally get to see Bill O’Brien snap and put a rookie through a table, Dudley Boyz Style. Or maybe you just want to tailgate. All are valid reasons to head down to Kirby and 610. Here’s the best advice I can give without being too jaded. Football!

Where to get tickets

There aren’t any tricks, really. It’s football in Texas, so it’s a seller’s market. And if you thought you were already getting fleeced, ticket prices are up this season. Now the average ticket will only cost you $103 per person!

Where to park

The parking lot might actually be the most entertaining aspect of catching a Texans game at NRG Stadium. On gameday, I typically see more social media posts of people partying their faces off at tailgates in the parking lot than of anyone actually in the stadium. Believe it or not, Houston is actually one of the best tailgating venues in the NFL.

They’ve basically got teams out there. There are groups that give themselves cool Texans-related team names; shell out upwards of $10,000 a year for parking spaces alone (not including the cost of their season tickets); bring barbecue pits worth more than my car; and sit in a parking lot, cook, drink, and talk about the Texans before they go see the Texans.

But if you ignore that cynical perspective or absurd logic of the entire tradition, they’re actually a ton of fun. You’ll need a ticket to the game, a parking pass, and a tailgating pass to do any of this, though, because why would you assume that a blue-collar tradition would be free. Dummy. Oh, and drink responsibly. Or at least pace yourself. 

That entirely hypothetical situation would be a real rookie move, guys.

Where to pregame

Tailgate, dummy.

Where to get beer

NRG is home to several bars throughout the stadium and has a fairly decent offering of local breweries like 8th Wonder, Karbach, and Saint Arnold. They’ll all run you roughly $10, so, once again, just go drink at the tailgate and ride that buzz throughout the game. The Texans will probably give you plenty of reasons to drink though.

Where to get food

Dude, seriously. Tailgate.

Where it gets rowdy

The tailgate — I’ll stop. The entire stadium is fairly rowdy, but the north endzone — referred to as “The Bull Pen” is where it gets crazy. To give you an idea of what you’re in for (assuming you can score tickets here), here’s an excerpt from the Texans official Bull Pen site:

“… fans within the Bull Pen are encouraged to stand throughout the game, sing, cheer and otherwise support the team in an enthusiastic manner, and therefore this section may not be a good fit for children or families.”

I love it.

Next up: The Astrodome — I mean, we’re done.


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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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