WELCOME TO THE TRICKED-OUT, over-the-top sports palace that plays host to the NFL's newest franchise, the Houston Texans. The Astrodome, next door, may have been the Eighth Wonder of the World, but Reliant Stadium is even more hype-worthy. Never in Texas has there been a venue that so befits football's status as the unofficial state religion—and there isn't a more inviting place in the world to watch four quarters.
Here are a few facts to consider in the run-up to the regular season kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys on September 8.
The league's largest scoreboard ushers in the next generation of visual bombast in the tradition of the 'Dome. (Remember the six-shooting cowboys and ricocheting bullets?)
In another era of stadia, the Bull Pen, in the north end zone, would have been home to the cheap seats. Now it's the designated rowdy-fan section, similar to the Dawg Pound at the old Cleveland stadium, and you have to pay $49.50 per game to sit there.
There's a hole in the roof, just like at Texas Stadium in Irving, so God can watch his new favorite team. The difference is that this one can be closed (or opened), in a mere ten minutes.
7,500 premium club seats that feel straight out of first-class: extra-wide (21-inch) padded seats with cup holders, attendant service, private escalator access, and wide-screen TVs. Priced from $1,575 to $2,575 per year.
The 78 lower-level luxury suites are closer to the playing field than any corporate boxes in an NFL stadium. Could this possibly mean less schmooze and more attention paid to the game?
One concession for every 150 fans. And a concourse with an unobstructed view of the field, allowing you to keep an eye on the action no matter how long the line is for $5.50 beers.
The team mascot, Toro, suggests a multinational marketing ploy appropriate in a city only a few hundred miles from the border. Can you say, "Mexico's Team"?
Yes, the grass is real, as it is at Minute Maid Park. Once again, natural turf returns to the city that made the fake version famous, thanks to a translucent Teflon-coated fabric roof that can be retracted to let the sun shine in.