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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Opinion

A stadium by any other name would smell as sweet


A quiet excitement grows as the game against UTSA draws near, and UH students prepare to cheer on their university. TDECU stadium will likely be the home where memories will be made.  |  Courtesy of Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

A quiet excitement grows as the game against UTSA draws near and UH students prepare to cheer the Cougars on at their home field for the first time in almost two years. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

UH was called Houston Junior College and held classes at San Jacinto High School when it was founded in 1927. The University has undergone insurmountable changes since then — especially in more recent years — some of which include its name, surrounding buildings and a complete change of location back in 1939.

For the most part, these changes go uncontested. While some students are unhappy with the construction that results from these changes, the outcome of these projects is typically enough to mollify irritated Cougars — that is, until recently.

On Nov. 24, 2012, a major change was made when the great John O’Quinn Field at Corbin J. Robertson Stadium closed its gates for the final time since its opening on Sept. 18, 1942. After 70 years of housing Cougars, Robertson Stadium was demolished to be succeeded by a larger, newer and much more expensive stadium.

Geology and geophysics junior Martin Vicente said he made some good memories at Robertson.

“Typically I’d go with only a friend or two friends, and we’d just kind of meet up with the people around us. I liked Robertson,” Vicente said. “My first year here was with Keenum in 2011, so it was pretty big, pretty exciting. I wanted to be at every game and it was sold out so there was a good vibe — very loud.”

UH offensive lineman Rowdy Harper, who had the opportunity to play at Robertson Stadium, said the demolition was a bittersweet moment.

“I definitely felt something about (the demolition of Robertson),” Harper said. “I hadn’t heard of University of Houston for very long when I got recruited, but when I got here I learned that we have a ton of donors who are great around here, and just hearing them talk about some of the big players that have played at Robertson and all that stuff was really exciting.”

Cougars are familiar with change, so even though it may have been upsetting for some to see Robertson Stadium torn down, there was excitement and hope in the humid Houston air as we awaited the opening of the new football stadium.

For a full season, players, performers and fans alike hustled to NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium), anxious for the day when students would be able to once again walk to the campus stadium and the Cougar spirit of game-day could be brought back to the University.

“Even if it didn’t have a name, we would love to go play in it. But it has a name now, and it has ‘TD’ at the very beginning so offense kind of likes that.”

Rowdy HarperUH offensive lineman, on TDECU Stadium

Harper said that seeing Robertson torn down was slightly upsetting, but seeing the growing stadium from the Cougar practice field every day got him excited for the new season.

After nearly two years of continued construction on the nameless stadium, reports of a naming rights contract for the shiny new stadium emerged. The name of this new child was decided, and Texas Dow Employees Credit Union Stadium was born.

Some Cougars were put-off by the name of the stadium upon hearing the new name; TDECU doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. While some students took to social media to vent their frustrations, others were indifferent.

Vicente said while he thought the name wasn’t necessarily an “easy-flowing name,” neither he nor his friends cared too much about it.

Supply chain logistics junior Timothy McGinty said the TDECU Stadium will probably get a nickname soon.

“I will admit that when I first learned of the name I thought, ‘That is not a very catchy name,’ and I thought that maybe it could have had a little better name,” McGinty said. “But in the long run, I feel like people will forget about the name. People are already starting to call that new stadium ‘The Cage.’ ”

Among the discussion over the name of the stadium, it makes one wonder if the people who spend the most time on this field — the players and performers — even care about its ridiculed name.

“I don’t think (the name) matters,” Harper said. “We are just glad that someone is willing to pay that much money to kind of be boosters to us and who believe in us … so we were excited for whatever it was. Even if it didn’t have a name, we would love to go play in it. But it has a name now, and it has ‘TD’ at the very beginning so offense kind of likes that.”

When it comes down to it, the name of the stadium is not important; the energy that students and fans bring is the main concern. For example, the maximum seating capacity at Robertson Stadium was approximately 33,000; at TDECU Stadium the capacity has been increased to 40,000 people.

While the location of last season’s games at NRG Stadium had a greater audience potential with a capacity of 71,500, one can definitely feel a change in energy between a game on home turf and an away game.

“I went to one or two (games at NRG), but it wasn’t really the same,” Vicente said. “It was too big, and there weren’t a lot of people there. It didn’t really feel like a home stadium. It just felt like we were there.”

Harper said he can’t attest to the attendance in the stands at NRG Stadium, as he was always playing on the field, but he did say it always feels good to play at home.

“It definitely helps us when we get to play here at University of Houston and we get more of our fans out here, and it looks like they’re having a good time … it gets us pumped up to see that many people watching us,” Harper said.

Ultimately, whether TDECU Stadium becomes known as “The Cage,” “Touch Down Stadium” or “Cougar Stadium” doesn’t really matter. After all, Robertson Stadium’s full name was John O’Quinn Field at Corbin J. Robertson Stadium, and Cougars just called it home.

Correction: The original article said the incorrect original name for UH. This has been changed.

Opinion editor Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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