By Emily Weinstein
Houston's Reliant Park is a prime example that everything really is bigger in Texas.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK GREEN|
The facility is just plain huge, making Reliant Park one of the largest, most versatile sports, entertainment and convention sites in the United States. With the addition of two brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities—Reliant Stadium and Reliant Center—the campus has created a renewed interest in bringing quality events to the city of Houston. Additionally, Reliant Park has created new jobs, boosted the city's economy and created opportunities for various Houston businesses along the way.
"Reliant Park on so many levels has rejuvenated interest in Houston and what it has to offer to both residents and visitors," says Michael Clarke, director of sales and marketing for Reliant Park. "Football on Sundays, a concert on Saturday night or a trade show during the week—the campus serves many purposes and provides world-class facilities and services, a simple example of our great degree of flexibility."
The Reliant Park campus is comprised of four facilities: Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center, Reliant Astrodome and Reliant Arena. Combined, they offer more than 350 acres of space and can host more than 450 event opportunities per year. Hosting a karate demonstration, dog show, corporate meeting and cricket match in one day is par for the course at Reliant Park. Versatility in available space allows for an unparalleled event roster.
Reliant Center opened in April 2002 and is one of the largest exposition centers in the country, consisting of 1.4 million gross square feet and featuring more than 700,000 square feet of versatile single-level contiguous exhibition space. The Center's 72 meeting rooms range from 620 to 22,000 square feet and feature individual sound systems, Internet access and 17-foot ceilings. Reliant Center will host Houston's largest annual convention, the Offshore Technology Conference, as well as the country's top trade and consumer shows, such as the Houston International Auto Show; the Reliant Park Series of Dog Shows; the International Boat, Sport and Travel Show; AutoRama; and the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market.
Bringing football back to Houston deserved a state-of-the-art facility that fans believed would rival the Astrodome. Reliant Stadium features the NFL's first natural grass, retractable-roof football stadium and will host Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. The 69,500-seat stadium cost $420 million to build and opened in August 2002. Reliant Stadium will also be the home of RodeoHouston and its annual 2 million patrons. The stadium will also host the Rolling Stones in January 2003 and various other events including World Cup soccer, motor sports and college basketball.
Reliant Astrodome, the "Eighth Wonder of the World," was the first air-conditioned domed stadium when it opened in 1965 and has served as a symbol of Houston's unique spirit of achievement ever since. Featuring a seating capacity of 60,000 to 70,000, Reliant Astrodome hosts a range of events including high-school football games as well as special events such as galas, luncheons and banquets on the dome floor.
Reliant Arena is a self-sufficient, multifunctional facility that offers 250,000 square feet of exhibit space, an 8,000-seat arena and 2,000-seat pavilion. The venue serves as the primary horse competition facility for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"One of the biggest advantages of Reliant Park is all of these fantastic facilities in such close proximity," Clarke says. "It is an incredible draw for meeting and event planners and allows unheard of flexibility and opportunities."
In an effort to not only make Reliant Park appealing from a facility standpoint, more than 30 acres of green space, including 2,200 trees, have transformed the once concrete jungle into an environmentally rich destination. Landscaping, water features and a tailgating area entice patrons to come early and stay late, rather than rush to their cars and head home.
"Reliant Park is turning green, and we are very happy about it," says Mike Surface, chairman of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation. "The color was definitely missing from the campus, and we are touching every area we can with trees, water and grass. Landscaping will become a key element of the campus' success and future."
About 26,000 parking spaces will be available on-site, and construction is underway for Houston's METRORail light rail system. The rail system is scheduled to be in operation in time for Houston to host Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.
In the meantime, the complex can accommodate the smallest board meeting to the largest sporting event and everything in between.