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?


My friends are degenerates
But I'd never change them
Liars, cheats, and hypocrites
Not the type for saving

- A Day To Remember

If you listen to the Blitz, that is the second hour intro. And if you have been paying attention to Houston sports this week, you know it has been filled with liars, cheats and hypocrites. Many have said it was the worst 24 hours in Houston sports history. From a national attention standpoint, it might be the best, because finally the rest of the nation has noticed the sports scene here.

For years, Houston sports fan has chafed that their teams don't get enough attention from the national media.

They are getting plenty of attention now. Congrats, Houston, this is what your sports teams are known for after one of the most bizarre weeks in Houston sports history.

The liars

University of Houston quarterback D'Eriq King made the odd decision to red shirt after four games, with the presumption he would return in 2020. He constantly repeated that he would be back. On Tuesday night, clearly hoping to avoid the spotlight, he announced during the national championship game his intent to transfer.

He insisted he was staying several times, despite rumors that turned out to be true that he never had any intention of returning. It was a bad look for coach Dana Holgorsen, who banked his 2020 season on King, and a worse look for King, who could have just said "as of now, I am planning on staying." Instead he was intentionally misleading.

And the national media noticed. Even though it happened during the championship game, the story made the front page of ESPN.com, and it mentioned all the times King said he was staying. It was a subtle way of highlighting the lies.

It was a bad look for everyone, and closed out a rough day for Houston sports fan.

The earlier news, of course, was The Big Lie.

The cheats

Well, that's easy. The Astros were hit with a loss of draft picks, a fine, and year-long suspensions for their manager and GM.

Shortly thereafter, owner Jim Crane fired GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. Major league baseball's discoveries were damning.

There is no doubt the Astros cheated. It's hard to believe that everyone in the organization did not know. But the statement exonerated Crane. We can debate if the punishment was enough, but lost in all of it was that it was a "player-driven" scheme. MLB chose not to punish the players, presumably since there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement to allow it. Regardless, it leaves a lot of questions. Which players? All of them? Just the stars?

Make no mistake, this has been a major national story from the beginning. It dominated talk and headlines on Monday, even in the wake of NFL playoffs and the college championship. The national opinion? The Astros are cheaters and should have been punished more. If you are a fan, you likely don't care. Or you blame the whistleblower. But the nation has a different opinion. If the team struggles in 2020, you can bet the narrative will be that they can't win without cheating. This one isn't going away. But the controversy let someone else off the hook...

The hypocrites

Rest assured, no one was happier to see the Astros announcements than Bill O'Brien, whose epic, historic collapse in Kansas City was swept to the back pages. His inane comments that "we are headed in the right direction" went without being called out. His poor decisions went unnoticed. His inability to look at his organization and recognize change is needed was lost.

We have been saying that in Houston for years. But after his flaws were exposed to a national audience, finally the rest of the world realizes he is in over his head. Several national outlets said he should be fired.

O'Brien said again he won't hire a GM. He said that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is expected to return next year despite two years of terrible defense. His complete power over the organization makes it clear meaningful change is not coming. We get that O'Brien is not going anywhere, but his stubborn reliance on yes men and cronies and refusal to bring in a legitimate offensive coordinator or replace Crennel means there is no hope for the franchise to take the next step. Sometimes you need new voices. O'Brien's just gets louder and louder and drowns out everyone else's.

Since he became coach, the other three teams in the AFC South have made the AFC Championship Game. The Texans are the only team to fail to do that. Yet they are going in the right direction, according to O'Brien.

What does it all mean? 

The city's teams are finally getting national run. Whether or not it is for good reasons in immaterial. Houston is in the national spotlight. If you are a fan, all you can do is embrace the liars, cheats and hypocrites, and roll with it. And wait for the Rockets to find a way to make news.

The reality is this has been going on for decades. Baseball in particular is a sport that welcomes cheating. Athletes and teams have been lying to you for years. Speaking of hypocrites, if you ripped the Patriots but defend the Astros? The bottom line is fans love to turn a blind eye. And that's just fine. But pretending this isn't a reality is naive.

As fans, you want to believe you are rooting for good people. You wear their jerseys. But the reality is when that much money is on the line, people are going to do whatever they can outside the rules. Maybe it is overly cynical, but the truth is most of them grew up in a culture of cheating and taking short cuts and trying not to get caught. Should we act surprised when they do? Bad people exist in all walks of life. Money attracts more of them.

There is a LOT of money in sports.

And to think it is just Houston is silly. Players like Cody Bellinger saying the Dodgers did things the "right way" might want to hold off. More will come out, and you look even worse when you say stuff like that and your team is the next one.

That leaves Houston fans to just embrace and accept reality. And before you say, "this is harsh and unfair..." is there anything in here that is not true?

Oh, and enjoy the 2017 World Series, because at this rate, that is all you will be able to hang your hat on.

But at least the national media notices you now.

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