The immediate problem once we decided to build the new stadium was how to pay for it. Rice was prohibited by its charter from incurring debt (this restriction stood until the early 2000s, when we did one of our periodic charter changes) and there was no willingness on the part of the trustees to use endowment funds for non-academic purposes. A committee was formed, headed by board member Gus Wortham, tasked with finding the money. Anticipating our first major capital campaign, they rejected the idea of going out and raising the cash from our traditional major donors. (We finally got around to this a mere thirteen years later.) Instead they decided on something that was a bit unusual at the time–the sale of twenty-year seat options. Because we were in a big hurry to get the new stadium built, the group immediately launched a fifteen day campaign with the goal of selling 15,000 options at $100 each for grandstand and $200 for boxes. This was enormously successful. In two weeks they sold over 12,000 and within a month easily passed the goal. The Rice Athletic Association chipped in another $500,000 (this was in the days when one of the major duties of the Committee on Outdoor Sports was the distribution of the profits generated by football) and we were on our way.
There isn’t a whole lot about this in the archives so I went back and looked for newspaper stories about it. There are some and they are moderately interesting, but my attention was really grabbed by something else: advertisements.
I’m assuming you could buy options directly from Rice but it turns out that you could also buy them at Holt’s Sporting Goods downtown:
And banks would loan you money to do it! I did not expect this.
Bonus: At least one option certificate survives.
Fascinating history, and this all happened just a few years before my class matriculated in 1956. Those option holders got their money’s worth when the Owls beat the No. 1 Aggies in 1957.
When NRG (Reliant, at the time) was looking for funding, they were selling PSLs – personal seat licenses. We looked at this as the butt of a joke in a MOB halftime, and then I discovered that Rice had done exactly the same thing, roughly 50 years earlier.
Rice athletics was once the pride of the city of Houston and the Houston business community. Now, through years of mismanagement and lack of administrative leadership, a truly valuable asset has been allowed to wither away like other once iconic businesses like Compaq, Sears, Texaco, etc.