Reckling Park - Rice Owls
Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Reckling Park 1968 University Blvd Houston, TX 77005
Year Opened: 2000
Rice Owls – Reckling Park
One of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country, Rice University has a long history of fostering educators, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners. The school also has a long history of success in athletics, as well, including on the baseball diamond. The Rice Owls fielded their first baseball team in 1913, and beginning in 1914 they were members of the fabled Southwest Conference until its collapse in 1996.
Since 2006 – until this next season when they will level up to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) – Rice has been a member of Conference USA. In the latter half of the 20th century up until the middle of the 21st, the Owls have seen a tremendous amount of success on the field.
Led by such former big leaguers as current head coach Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz, Jr., and Norm Charlton, the Owls have won 18 regular season conference championships (the most recent happening in 2015), made the NCAA Tournament a whopping 23 times, and in 2003 they completely climbed the metaphorical mountain and were crowned National Champions.
Since 2000, Rice has done its winning from within the friendly confines of Reckling Park. Tucked inside the campus of Rice University and within eyesight of the skyline of the Texas Medical Center, Reckling Park is quite frankly a gorgeous spot to see a ballgame.
Food & Beverage 3
When it comes to food and beverages, Reckling Park does enough to scratch your ballpark itch by playing the proverbial hits. There are two main spots in the park to get your grub and drink on.
The main concessions area is located on the concourse behind home plate, and offers the usual suspect lineup of ballpark favorites – you can get hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, candy, popcorn, soft pretzels, sunflower seeds, canned beer, bottled water, sports drinks, and fountain sodas. Nothing flashy, nothing spectacular, but solid.
The second spot is a little more upscale, as down the first base line is The Roost. A de facto beer garden, this stand offers up the same food and drinks as the other stands, but in a covered patio area. The ballpark also has a Kona Ice shaved ice truck parked inside that is quite popular with fans, which makes for a nice treat during the hot, humid days of early spring in H-Town.
I will say right off the bat (no pun intended) that I’m a sucker for stadiums with a nice, clean brick façade. To me that just screams old school elegance, and harkens back to the golden age of sports. For baseball, a sport steeped in nostalgia and history, facilities like Reckling Park add to the gravitas of what is happening on the field.
Once through the main gates as you take the short steps up from the main concourse to the seating area, the field opens up and you are transported into what makes baseball special. The open skies, the green grass (field turf, to be fair), and young fans crowding the fence line looking for autographs and/or foul balls; Reckling Park has all of it.
In addition to the overall aesthetic, the park has a few nice features to add to the atmosphere; there’s the Roost area as well as some berm seating for fans in left and left-center field. The Owls prominently display their championship wins – naturally including the 2003 National Championship – on signage in the outfield. Also, on the main concourse is the Rice team store, for those looking to get their team/school gear.
As mentioned, Reckling Park is right in the middle of the lush and beautiful Rice campus. The tree-lined walkways leading to the ballpark are populated with public art, and crisscross the campus and its stately academic buildings.
Within eyesight is historic Rice Stadium, and within walking distance is Tudor Fieldhouse. With baseball and basketball overlapping seasons, you have a good chance of double-dipping sports at Rice. That’s also totally doable if you’re interested in checking out a Houston Astros or Houston Rockets game while you’re in Space City.
Speaking of Space City, the reason the city has earned this moniker is something everyone should visit at least once when heading to Houston – Space Center Houston is the hub for space exploration in the United States. Home to NASA, Space Center is a fantastic site to take in before or after catching an Owls game. Consistently rated as the top tourist destination in the city, Space Center has something for everyone.
When you’re looking for food and lodging options, Rice Village, the area around the university, has plenty to offer you. Restaurants such as Miller’s Café – specializing in burgers, sandwiches, and salads – and Poke in the Bowl – which offers, of course, poke bowls – are just a couple of options that are a short drive from the ballpark. For lodging options abound, including most of the recognizable chains; within a five-minute drive from Reckling Park are Westin Houston Medical Center and Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center.
For a program that has found as much success as the Rice Owls, it is quite unfortunate to see how sparsely attended their games regularly are. Since 2014 the Owls have drawn just under 3,000 fans per game; this is just about half the capacity for the ballpark. Baseball inherently needs a crowd to keep the energy up for a game.
Most fans in the stands are decked out in their Rice purple, however, there are also quite a few sporting Astros gear. It will be interesting to see how the attendance is impacted when Rice moves to the AAC next season.
Rice University, like many of the other sporting facilities in H-Town, is quite convenient to get to. The campus is located between Interstate 69 and State Highway 90, and there is plenty of signage telling you how to get to the school – once you enter Rice Village you can’t miss the athletics compound.
Once you get on site, parking is plentiful; I’d recommend parking near the football stadium and strolling through the campus if time permits. Parking there will cost you $10, which is a nice bargain. If you choose not to drive, ridesharing options are a good option, as is Houston’s public transportation service.
As always, I like to offer the advice to visitors to Houston to be wary of the city’s notorious traffic. You will be stuck in it, that’s just a fact, so, plan accordingly when heading to the game.
Return on Investment 4
Single-game tickets for Owls games start at $10 for general admission ($15 for premium matchups). The Owls regularly play host to some of the biggest and best baseball programs in the state, including the ones from Austin and College Station. You can also expect the competition to ramp up even further next season with the move to thee AAC.
Given that, the low cost for parking, plus some of the most affordable concessions I’ve seen, and you are getting a really great bargain at Reckling Park, especially when you also consider the great ballpark itself.
Baseball doesn’t normally lend itself to Extras, outside of a few things. However, Reckling Park isn’t without some special offerings to make the in-game entertainment that much more special. The main one that is offered up is a play area for kids just outside the third baseline – this area is full of inflatable bounce houses that are sure to entertain really young fans.
One small feature that I truly enjoyed seeing, and it is such a small detail, are the boards behind home plate that have the day’s handwritten lineups for each team, as well as the current conference standings. Again, it is such a small detail, but it reminded me of simpler time in baseball history.
This was my first visit to Reckling Park, but I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be my last. The park, if I haven’t made it clear yet, is really beautiful. I can only hope more fans will start coming once the move to the new conference takes place. I can only imagine what it would be like to see it filled. Regardless, if you’re a baseball fan or just a sports fan looking for something fun to do, catch an Owls game at Rice when you can.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.