Houston Super Bowl 2004 vs. now

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Super Bowl LI is the Bayou City's chance to impress the world with everything it has to offer.

If you haven't been in Downtown Houston recently, you may do a double take.

Bob Eury has worked with the Downtown District for 34 years, said Houston is light years from where we were when the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2004.

"It's a whole new world," Eury told KPRC Channel 2. "We have developed so much in the 13 years between the two events."

For one, Discovery Green, now the heart of Super Bowl Live, wasn't much of anything in the early years.

"Well, Discovery Green was just some green blocks that ran between the Shops at Houston Center and the George R. Brown (Convention Center),” Eury said. “There were a couple parking lots flanking it and the idea of Discovery Green came not too far after the 2004 event."

Light rail was barely up and running for Super Bowl XXXVIII.

"We've opened two more (light rail) lines since 2004, and from a transportation standpoint, we're being careful to have the people flow and the event and vehicle flow work," Eury said. "So, the green and purple lines which run east, west, north of the GRB, to keep that operating during the entire event on extended hours."

When fans come to the city, they're going to be hungry.

"It's not just BBQ and Tex-Mex anymore," Eric Sandler, food editor at CultureMap, told Channel 2. "Just standing (in) downtown, we have Grotto, which is Italian. We have Pappadeaux, which maybe you would expect. Then right across the street, Hugo Ortega is opening Xochi, which is an Oaxacan restaurant, which is a very specialized Mexican cuisine."

Sandler is tracking how Houston's top chefs are seeking to take a bite out of Super Bowl LI.

"It's a huge time for restaurants. We have an unusually large number of openings, and not just restaurants that are opening, but really good, really exciting restaurants that are opening,” he said. “Everyone wants to take advantage of that economic opportunity to do maybe a month's worth of revenue in just a few days."

From the expansion of the Houston Galleria to the new River Oaks Shopping District, diners will see a booming Houston foodie scene.

"River Oaks District, we can expect that to be a hot spot certainly for Super Bowl. Steak 48, La Colonial, Taverna, Toulouse (and) Hopdoddy -- those are going to be full all week," Sandler said.

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