HOUSTON – The NFL season kicks off Thursday night as the Texans take on the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Speaking of stadiums, Houston’s NRG Stadium is nearing its 20th year as home of the Texans, which isn’t too old by NFL standards, but it does beg the question: what does the future hold for NRG?
NRG in its prime
“I think NRG Stadium is in its prime, honestly,” says Ryan Walsh, the Executive Director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation. Walsh’s organization was created to maintain and develop the county-owned NRG Park.
“We’ve always been envisioned as a multi-use, multi-destination sports and entertainment and community complex,” Walsh says. “And I feel like we’ve done very well at that over the years.”
The massive complex, which includes the stadium, NRG Center, NRG Arena, and the Astrodome, hosts more than 500 events each year, from sports to concerts and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. And that’s something newer venues desperately want.
“In a lot of cases, owners and municipalities aren’t able to devote that scale of land to the project,” says Bryan Trubey, an architect with world-renown stadium builder HKS, Inc. “So it’s not just about the stadium," he says. "It’s about how do we project a really unique site-wide brand that’s really recognizable globally.”
Looking toward the future
This year, there will be revamped concessions at NRG Stadium. But to stay in the game long-term, Walsh knows they have to attract more than just football fans.
“That’s exactly what we’re looking at for the future, to find a way that we can create NRG Park as an event destination, not just an event facility,” he said.
For a good example, you only need to look 250 miles up the highway at the complex shared by the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers which features two state-of-the-art, sport-specific stadiums, hotels, shops and restaurants.
A field of dreams, hoping if they build it, more fans will come.
“There’s lots of great ideas that we’ve seen in trends around the country,” Walsh says, "including, obviously, mixed-use retail developments with restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
History of NFL stadiums
NRG Stadium opened in August 2002, amid a building boom in the NFL. So where does it rank among the NFL’s oldest stadiums? Click through the timeline below to see when all of the current NFL stadiums opened.