RESERVATIONS FOR SIX: Robertson could use a makeover
With Mack Rhoades set to assume the duties of athletics director in August, students and athletes can hope for an upgrade in their athletic facilities.
The administration’s top priority for these improvements should be Robertson Stadium.
Since UH President Renu Khator hired Rhoades from the University of Akron to replace retired athletics director Dave Maggard on June 11, alumni and students have begun to dream about possible scenarios for enhancing Robertson Stadium.
The stadium is home not only to the University football team, but also to Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Although the Dynamo’s lease ends after the 2010 season, it still needs approval for a downtown stadium of its own in the near future.
The University’s football facility, which is lagging behind other Conference USA schools’ stadiums, needs improvements to make events more fan-friendly so the stands will be full.
Rhoades has a lot of work to do before Robertson Stadium becomes a place where opponents hate playing. His first order of business should be adding premium seating for fans who want to enjoy the game inside a suite or in club levels.
In August 2008, the Board of Regents approved a $38 million plan to build an end zone facility that would do just that. Team amenities and an improvement to the stadium’s appearance were also included in the plan.
The stadium has fared well since its construction in 1942, undergoing several renovations; the latest occurring in 2006.
In April, Maggard said the 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium needed more than just an end zone facility. He called for a complete renovation, which would take longer and cost more money. With Maggard staying beyond his original estimate of five years, he clearly wasn’t going to stick around to see the completion of his ambitious proposal.
Enter Mack Rhoades and his reputation for making such endeavors come to fruition. Before he was lured from Akron, Rhoades secured funding for a $55 million stadium for a university that is much smaller than UH.
Plenty of ideas come to mind on possible upgrades and additional seating, but Rhoades must develop a plan to improve the quality of the experience at Robertson Stadium. The hardest part will be sticking to his plan.
The end zone facility would be a nice improvement to the stadium. But an upper deck, new bathrooms, concessions and maybe even a locker room and weight room would be wonderful for the athletes.
Robertson Stadium could take on an upgrade that mirrors The Horseshoe at Ohio State University, which seats more than 100,000 people.
A double-decker horseshoe design with club and suite seating and Romanesque architecture would give UH a distinctive look. Of course, the seating capacity would be much lower than 100,000.
Regardless of what Rhoades and the Board of Regents decide, fresh ideas would bolster recruiting and attendance. An upgraded stadium would also show respect to the two-time MLS champion Dynamo.
Although the Dynamo does not plan on playing in Robertson forever, the improvements would be another reason for the young, successful MLS franchise to allow the process to play out.
This would also be a win-win situation for the school and the team, as they split proceeds from the parking and concessions. The Dynamo has proven that it has loyal fans who will fill the seats, wile UH struggles to sell tickets.
The season opener is drawing closer, and despite an older and smaller stadium there is still no excuse for not supporting the Cougars. Students need to visit Robertson Stadium, and embrace any decision made to improve the stadium while doing their part to further the cause.