A loyal reader recently sent me a scan of a Houston street map that was produced by Shell, the kind of map, I think, that you could get at gas stations. I don’t see a date on it anywhere but we can make a pretty good guess. Click on it once and it will get bigger, click again and you can get a really close look:
There’s much of interest here but the campus portion of this map is really quite curious: the new stadium is there, as is the new gym, both finished in 1950. But there’s no Abercrombie, Anderson, or Fondren, all completed in the late 1940s. It also still shows the old stadium in its final form, and that was torn down in 1951. Recently I happened to stumble across this little map of campus that’s perfect to show you what I mean. It was drawn to clarify the location of the proposed new stadium when it was still being debated by the board. Again, it’s undated but clearly done in about 1948:
What aroused my friend’s curiosity, though, was that on the Shell map the new field is called Houston Stadium. That’s what it was generally called at its inception and it’s the name you see if you go back and look at all the local newspaper coverage of the planning and construction. The original idea was that Rice would build a 100,000 seat stadium as part of a municipal project with multiple users. (Dallas was dramatically expanding the Cotton Bowl at this time and, well, you know how that goes.) That was way too ambitious and fell through fairly quickly. Next came a plan for a 50,000 seat dual user facility for Rice and the University of Houston, which also was too complicated to get off the ground. But by 1949 it was clear that our old stadium, much too small at 37,000 seats, was also structurally compromised. This meant that Rice would go it alone. The first plans called for 50,000 seats but after the spectacular success of the Froggie Williams led 1949 Owls that seemed too small. Some calculations showed that they could add another 20,00 seats for not much more money so 70,00 seats it was. The Rice administration continued to call it Houston Stadium for a while even then, but protests from students and alumni got them to finally change the name to Rice Stadium.
Next up: how to pay for it?
Bonus: Either somebody is messing with me or they’re actually using this for something.