Ranking the top 5 fan experiences at sports venues in Houston
Houston has a vibrant sports scene, with plenty of options. But what venue offers the best fan experience? Using the following criteria, we rank the top 5 venues in the city based on the experience for the attendee: 1) Quality of team, 2) Concessions, 3) Fan engagement, 4) Site lines, 5) General atmosphere. We rank the venues based on the experience watching the main sports tenants. Obviously any list is subjective, but having been to all of these multiple times in different situations, this is how they rank:
5) Toyota Center/RocketsCourtesy photo
When it comes to quality of team, site lines, concessions and fan engagement, Toyota Center still holds up very well even though it is now 16 years old. Getting to watch two former MVPs in James Harden and Russell Westbrook is an added bonus. Where it falls short is the general atmosphere. While the red rowdies are fun and engaged, fans show up late, often stay at the bars instead of their seats, and many are just there to be seen. It's better in the playoffs, but the regular season is overly corporate and the atmosphere is pretty lame. It is also a great place for concerts and events like the WWE.
Side note: If you are going for concessions, wait until play is stopped before walking back to your seat in front of people. There are some people there to actually watch the game.
4) BBVA Compass Stadium/Dynamo
Photo courtesy of BBVA
Soccer fans are a different breed; they are engaged throughout with music, drums and fun. There really is not a bad seat in the house and the overall experience is awesome. Unfortunately the team has been pretty much irrelevant for the past several years and is slowly losing the fan base. The other negative is the place can be a microwave oven in the summer. Orange seats in 100 degree weather? It's much better at night, though, when they play most of the games. Still, if you haven't been to a game, it is worth your time.
3) NRG Stadium/TexansNRG Park/Facebook
The tail gating here is second to none, which means the fans are usually nice and lubed up before the game. The stadium itself is terrific, and the team is a consistent playoff contender. Still, fans tend to show up late, and there is some of the corporate atmosphere of Toyota Center. The team itself does not always inspire the fan base; the Thursday night game against the Colts in particular was pathetic. Part of the problem is many of the fans are not Texans fans, but NFL fans from other cities. However, when there is a playoff game, the atmosphere is terrific. Also a great place to watch college football and of course the rodeo.
2) Minute Maid Park/AstrosMLB.com
The team's World Series run in 2017 energized what was once a mausoleum. The playoff atmosphere is through the roof and the best experience in the city. The regular season can be flat at times, but there are 81 home games. Still, it's a far cry from the years where other team's fans dominated. The only negative is now that the place is packed on a semi-regular basis, it is difficult to get around the facility when it gets crowded. But that's the trade-off for success. The team has created some magical memories over the past few seasons, moving Minute Maid up the list.
1) Fertitta Center/UH
When Tilman Fertitta put money into the old Hofheinz, it was hard to imagine they were going to turn it into a near-perfect college basketball arena. It's cozy, with only 7,100 seats, which is the perfect amount to ensure sell outs. Plus, Kelvin Sampson has turned the Cougars into a relevant team on a national level. A Sweet 16 run last year and several high profile home wins made the overall experience excellent. If you even remotely like college basketball or any college sporting experience, this place is a must, especially if you can score tickets for a high profile AAC opponent. Simply the best experience in the city.
While the team is not what it used to be, Reckling Park is still a fun place to take in a Rice Owls baseball game. Constellation Field in Sugar Land provides perhaps the most fun family experience for the Skeeters. If UH football can get back to where it was a couple years ago, TDECU will move back up the list. Rice Stadium is a piece of history and worth visiting once.
The good news? The city has no shortage of great venues for college and pro sports, and plenty good teams to watch. It's a far cry from the old days of the Astrodome, Robertson Stadium and the Summit. It helps, too, that none of the teams are actually bad. In the end, isn't that what makes for the best experience?