A Survey of Houston’s Houses of the Holy

The cover art from Led Zeppelin's fifth album, Houses of the Holy.
The cover art from Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy.

Led Zeppelin used to call the big arenas where they played their epic concerts “Houses of the Holy.” The English super-group recorded a song so named and they used that title for their fifth album. Some of those “houses of the holy” were also home to big-time football games. For example, Led Zeppelin broke a record for concert attendance (previously held by The Beatles for their show at Shea Stadium) when they packed the football stadium in Tampa where later the New York Giants would win a Super Bowl. In my study of football and the attachment to it by fans and myself in my book, Farewell to Football?, I’ve identified some Football Houses of the Holy and will comment on them here.

The dream of Houston's
The dream of Houston’s “huckster-in-chief,” Roy Hofheinz, the Houston Astrodome.

One of the most important of these “houses” is/was the Houston Astrodome. I used a photo of the interior of this “eighth wonder of the world” as the header for this blog. James Gast wrote a great book about how the Astrodome was conceived and constructed.

I will also have a lot to say about the on-campus stadium at the University of Houston, which was initially called Jeppesen Stadium, later renamed Robertson Stadium, and then torn down in 2012 and replaced by TDECU Stadium.

Jeppesen Stadium, under construction in 1942, eventually and at various times the home of the University of Houston Cougars and the AFL Houston Oilers.
Jeppesen Stadium, under construction in 1942, eventually and at various times the home of the University of Houston Cougars and the AFL Houston Oilers.

The story of the new on-campus stadium, named for the Texas Dow Employee Credit Union (TDECU), how much it cost, and where the money came from, is still being written. In its first season, 2014, it was only full once–opening night, when the Cougars football team disappointed their fans with a 27-7 loss to University of Texas San Antonio. After the 2014 season and before a bowl game appearance, Head Coach Tony Levine was fired. Tom Herman, who coordinated the offense for the national-champion Ohio State Buckeyes, was hired in Houston before his bowl game, and now one of his major challenges will be filling a stadium on a campus that has only indifferently supported football.

Eventually named TDECU Stadium, the new on-campus football-only stadium at the University of Houston (in cartoon rendering).
Eventually named TDECU Stadium, the new on-campus football-only stadium at the University of Houston (in cartoon rendering).

After the 1996 season, Bud Adams left the Astrodome behind and took his Oilers to Tennessee, where they became the Titans and came up a yard short of winning a Super Bowl. A few years later, Bob McNair put together the deals that brought the NFL back to Houston and financed the building of a retractable roof stadium (which manages to make the Astrodome look kind of dinky).

Two generations of Houston stadia in one aerial shot: the decaying Astrodome in front of the current home of the NFL Houston Texans: NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium.
Two generations of Houston stadia in one aerial shot: the decaying Astrodome in front of the current home of the NFL Houston Texans: NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium.

The on-campus stadium at Rice University is probably most famous as the (blistering hot) site where President Kennedy announced the goal of the space program (“not because it is easy but because it is hard . . . . Why does Rice play Texas?”). It also hosted one of the most boring Super Bowls ever (VIII: Miami beat Minnesota, and completed 6 passes for 63 yards), and the AFL Oilers and UH Cougars both played there in between stints in Jeppesen Stadium and the Astrodome.

Host to Super Bowl VIII in January 1974, Rice Stadium.
Host to Super Bowl VIII in January 1974, Rice Stadium.
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Farewell to Football? An American Fan’s Examination of Conscience.

 

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