FALCON POINTS

Ranking the top 5 fan experiences at sports venues in Houston

Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

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/Rockets

Toyota Center Courtesy 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/Texans

Outside view of NRG Stadium NRG 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/Astros

A look at Minute Maid Park MLB.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.

Honorable mention

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?


Getty Images

The Houston sports fan has long lamented that their teams do not get enough love from the national media. In the past year, however, local teams and athletes have been in the news. The good news? The national media has taken notice. It might be for all the wrong reasons, but the city is now on the national map, giving the hot take artists and talking heads no shortage of ammo. Not everyone has become hated; the Roughnecks aren't old enough, and the Dynamo have not won enough recently. Kelvin Sampson has been a good story with UH basketball and has built a nice program, so that one is a positive. But let's look at the ones who have made headlines in the wrong ways:

5) Bill O'Brien

Texans Bill O'Brien Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

O'Brien has had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the Houston media for some time. The national media always questioned why he was so disliked. Then in a short span he yelled at a customer, blew a 24-0 lead in a playoff game, and the national sharks went into a frenzy. His weird play calling, clock management and general small man's syndrome has been the bane of Houston for years. The national media got to see it on the biggest stage, and immediately started piling on. Don't fret for O'Brien, however. He reacted by getting a promotion.

4) Daryl Morey

Daryl Morey Rockets.com

This is more of an international hatred thing, since he angered all of China. But he also got both praise and heat around the country after his "stand with Hong Kong" tweet. The incident has cost the NBA millions and sparked a worldwide controversy. Morey has been quiet since and his re-tooling of the Rockets roster has made a lot of the controversy disappear, but for a short time, this was a monster story.

3) Jim Crane

Jim Crane Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

The Astros owner got off light on the sign stealing punishment, and much of the national media and many of the players on other teams were critical of that. He didn't help himself with his spring training "apology," which was never going to be good enough for some people, even if he had not botched it. What Crane did or did not know will remain a mystery, but even if he had no knowledge of what was going on, the national media is out for blood. Crane's players, however, will likely bear the brunt going forward (more on that in a minute) and the Crane hatred will likely fade, but it was a dominant story earlier in February.

Interestingly enough, the two management guys who got punished by losing their jobs - Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch - have dodged most of the bullets, probably because they were the two who paid a price.

2) James Harden

James Harden.

This has always been an odd one. Harden has won an MVP, leads the league in scoring, and has put up some historic numbers. But his playoff failures coupled with a style of play that rubs some people the wrong way has always made him a target. It doesn't help that he has the personality and charisma of an old shoe. He also gets some love nationally, but overwhelmingly it is dislike. Winning a title would probably only make it worse. Most players become disliked because of fatigue of seeing them in the championship so often. Duke basketball, the Patriots, the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. Harden has done it without the title. It will be interesting to see what the narrative is if he and the Rockets can hoist a trophy.

1) The Astros star players

Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa and even Justin Verlander - who did not cheat - have been the most hated men in the national media over the past month, because none of them were punished. While the story was completely overblown, nationally very few came to their defense. It became a daily dose of who criticized them next. Bregman and Altuve seemed to take the brunt, because they were the ones who were part of the "apology." And rest assured, this won't go away anytime soon. The players will likely face boos and will have to answer the same old questions with every road trip. Is it fair? No. But that's how the media world works these days. Plus, the hatred far transcended the traditional media. Housewives who never watched an inning of baseball weighed in on social media. So no matter what they do, there will always be a fair amount of disgust for them.

The epilogue

The truth is, locally, most of these guys are beloved, other than O'Brien and to a much lesser extent Harden. But the view of the national media is a different thing, and Houston sports figures have put themselves in the crosshairs with tweets, cheating scandals and more. The good news is Morey seems to be getting past it, O'Brien can still prove he deserves his promotion by winning big, and maybe Harden will start winning more people over, because he does have some supporters. The Astros might never win back the media, and who cares? If they win back the title, people in Houston will be just fine.

And hey, embrace the fact that the national media has noticed, even if it is for negative reasons.

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