Attendance in the Astrodome consistently toppled records. And in 1996, the Rodeo celebrated its 30th anniversary in the Astrodome complex.
In addition to the Astrodome, two additional facilities were built to host this mammoth event — the Astrohall and the Astroarena. More than just a location for the Rodeo, these buildings have had an immeasurable impact on this organization as well as the entire Houston community.
After building and paying for the Astrohall and Astroarena, the Rodeo donated the facilities to the citizens of Harris County. These two buildings alone helped attract almost 30 million people to the various sporting events, trade shows, expositions and hundreds of other activities since the Astrohall was built in 1966.
The Rodeo builds the Livestock Exposition Building (Astrohall).
The 12-acre facility is expanded by four acres, providing more exhibit space and meeting rooms.
Two additional acres are added to the Astrohall, resulting in permanent administrative offices, meeting rooms, exhibit space and the Super Sale Salon (site of auctions and sales until 1991).
The 6,000-seat Astroarena is completed.
More space is added to both the east and west ends of the Astrohall.
The Rodeo adds acreage to the Astroarena in a partially funded project by the Houston Sports Association and Harris County. This phase represents the first time that the Rodeo does not totally fund construction of exhibition facilities.
An additional 4.8 acres in the Astroarena results in committee volunteer meeting rooms, a club, a restaurant, auction arenas and additional space for commercial exhibits. Harris County shares the cost of this additional construction.
Construction of a 40,920-square-foot warehouse addition is completed and donated to the citizens of Harris County. (stores the Rodeo's entertainment stage, houses rodeo contestants' horses, provides a warm-up arena for rodeo contestants and serves as additional storage during the year)
The Rodeo celebrates 30 years at the Astrodome complex.
The Harris County Commissioners Court approves the construction of a new exhibition facility on the north side of the Astrodome.
Harris County begins construction of new parking lots on the west side of Kirby Drive.
Houston becomes the home of the new NFL franchise, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moves forward with Houston NFL Holdings and Harris County to build a new football/rodeo stadium.
Groundbreaking ceremonies are held in March for the new 70,000 seat, retractable roof RODEOHOUSTON/NFL stadium.
In June, groundbreaking ceremonies celebrate the beginning of construction for the 1.3-million-square-foot Harris County Exposition Center.
In October, NRG acquires naming rights for the Astrodome Complex. The renamed NRG Park includes NRG Astrodome, NRG Arena, NRG Hall, NRG Center and NRG Stadium.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo personnel move into new Rodeo offices on the second floor of the new NRG Center.
Astro Hall is demolished and the site paved for parking.
NRG Stadium opens with the first Houston Texans pre-season NFL football game on Aug. 24.
The 71st Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo celebrates its first year in its new homes: NRG Stadium and NRG Center.
Carruth Plaza is completed at NRG Park, creating a Western sculpture garden that is home to eight large-scale bronzes.
On Dec. 27, 2012, the Rodeo purchased 48 acres of land out of a 92-acre tract commonly referred to as the Astroworld property.
NRG Park is located in the southwest part of Houston, between Kirby and Fannin, bordered on the south side by South Loop 610. Situated on more than 300 acres, NRG Park is conveniently located near fine hotels, restaurants, shopping and major airports. It is home to world-class sporting, convention and exhibition venues, including NRG Arena, NRG Astrodome, NRG Center and NRG Stadium.
NRG Park is conveniently connected to Houston's METRORail system. NRG Park is the south end of the rail, connecting the Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston.
- Approximately 2.1 million total square feet of exhibit space
- 350,000 square feet in NRG Arena
- 706,213 square feet in NRG Center
- 97,200 square feet in NRG Stadium
- 700,000 square feet in utility-prepared outdoor exhibit area
- 104,800 square feet in meeting rooms
- Approximately 140,000 seats in NRG Park
- 8,000 seats in NRG Arena
- 2,000 seats in NRG Arena Pavilion
- 70,000 seats in NRG Stadium
NRG Arena houses the Houston Horse Show, as well as some of the livestock show competitions. It is also home to the junior auctions.
- Total square footage: 349,000 square feet
- Arena floor: 24,000 square feet
- Arena seating: 5,800
NRG Center houses the Houston Livestock Show, commercial vendors and educational exhibits. It is also home of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ permanent offices.
- Total square footage: 1.3 million (nearly 30 acres) compared to 644,840 square feet in the former Astrohall
- Building size: 590 feet wide (nearly two football fields in length) by 1,532 feet long (just over five football fields in length)
Interior Exhibition Facilities
- Total exhibit footage: 706,213 (more than 16 acres) compared to 550,000 square feet in the former Astrohall
- NRG Center can be divided into 11 sections, ranging from 40,000 to 168,000 square feet (has 15 freight doors)
- Contiguous exhibit space on ground level with ceiling heights from 25 feet to 60 feet.
- Meeting rooms are located on the ground and mezzanine levels.
- 72 meeting rooms: each with 17 foot ceilings and individual sound systems
- Largest meeting rooms: 17,000 and 22,000 square feet
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ is a co-tenant in the 1.9 million-square-foot NRG Stadium — the largest and most expensive rodeo and football facility ever built. As a partner in NRG Stadium, rodeo-specific features and special Western accents are apparent.
Located immediately adjacent to NRG Astrodome along Kirby Drive, NRG Stadium opened in the fall of 2002 for football and early 2003 for rodeo.
Architectural Elements and Amenities
From the very beginning, the stadium's design focused on offering superior amenities to spectators. Standard capacity is fixed at 69,500 seats, although provisions were made to accommodate larger crowds for the 2004 Super Bowl and for Rodeo. Every effort has been made to pull the spectators down and forward to the action. Compared to NRG Astrodome, for example, the suites are almost 70 feet closer to the action at the sidelines.
Some areas in the main concourse are up to 65 feet wide, which boasts one concession stand for every 125 people. The main and club concourses have open views to the seating areas, allowing the Rodeo action to permeate the concourse areas. Exterior terraces at each concourse provide the opportunity for spectators to enjoy the outdoors between events.
The sides and ends of the stadium are open with large areas of glazing. As opposed to the dark and artificially lit concourses of most indoor facilities, these concourses feel more like an open-air stadium. The transparent skin allows for heating and cooling to regulate temperatures year round. At night, the building glows from within, and the circulation and excitement of the people inside are visible from the outside.
One of most notable aspects of the design is the operable fabric roof. While the NFL prefers to play in open-air stadiums, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has strict requirements to hold its events indoors under more controlled environments, and during the Rodeo, massive speakers and video screens are hung from the roof to enhance the performance. As a result of these opposing ideals, the need for a retractable roof was apparent from the start. The NFL also could take advantage of the roof during the hot pre-season and early season home games by offering a fully air-conditioned stadium for the spectators.
After studying multiple roof schemes, a uniquely simple solution was pursued for cost and maintenance reasons. The operable roof consists of two large panels that bi-part at the 50-yard line. Each panel slides on a track and rests over each end on two massive supertrusses that span the length of the field. It takes approximately 10 minutes to open or close the roof.
In order to keep the weight down and decrease the overall cost, the decision was made to skin the upper roof with fabric. The fabric roof provides a structurally light solution that keeps steel tonnages to a minimum. The translucency also provides the ambient sunlight to help maintain the natural grass playing field for football.
NRG Stadium Stats
- Building square footage: 1.9 million square feet
- Unique glass-paneled exterior
- 72,000-plus seats for Rodeo performances
- Supertrusses: support the retractable roof transport system. 84 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Weigh 3,750 tons (equivalent to the weight of more than 1,000 vehicles)
- Each supertruss has structural steel equivalent to a 20-story building.
- Pedestrian ramps in each corner with reversible escalators in each ramp system (full height of building)
NRG Setup and Presentation
- The stadium's palletized grass playing field is completely removed for Rodeo and replaced with a clay base and dirt floor. Nearly 7,000 cubic yards of clay and top soil is used.
- Rodeo stock — bulls, broncs, steers and roping calves — are housed in the north end of NRG Stadium under the lower bowl. During performances, roping and wrestling stock are penned on the south end of the arena.
- All loading and unloading dock space is located on the north end of NRG Stadium. During Rodeo, rolling doors separate the dock into two receiving areas to isolate the food and concession deliveries from the rodeo equipment and livestock deliveries.
- Roughstock chutes are located on the north end of the arena, and timed events, with the exception of barrel racing, begin on the south end.
- The translucent, retractable roof remains closed during Rodeo performances due to the eight video screens and the sophisticated speaker system — 180,000 pounds of equipment — suspended from the NRG Stadium roof.
- Two video boards at the end zones and additional LED screens on concourses add to the visual presentation.
- The Show's familiar rotating stage is stored at the south end of the arena during the rodeo events and travels to its traditional center location for the concerts.
- The Rodeo logo is tiled into the walls in the south-end dressing rooms. These same areas are utilized by visiting NFL teams.
Action Seats, Club Level and Suites
- Concourses in NRG stadium are up to 65 feet wide, with the field and club concourses having open views of the rodeo action. Rodeo's popularity and frequent sales of standing-room-only tickets necessitated the open views, and it has since been the model for other NFL stadiums.
- On the concourses, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo logo — the familiar "Bowlegged H" — is embedded in blocks in the walls and alternates with the Houston Texans logo.
- Spectators find that access to seating is labeled as "chutes" instead of "aisles." The recurring Western theme includes brands painted on walls and concessions with names like Fannin Icehouse and Mission Grill.
- Action seats, located between the field seats and the arena, take fans closer to the thrills and spills, and rodeo contestants. They are the closest seats available. Just watch the dirt fly!
- Leather panels in each upper and lower suite commemorate Rodeo, Houston Texans and NRG Park. If the door handle to each suite looks familiar, each one is shaped like a bull's horn.
- Rodeo and Houston Texans logos are laser cut into the back of each bar chair.
- Rodeo logos are prominent throughout the seating area, too, with the end cap on every other row embossed with the Rodeo logo.
- The rodeo and football influence is carried out in four themed bars on the Club Level.
- Located on northwest side
- Silver star on the back of each bar chair
- Tables covered with names of Texas-born stars of rodeo, entertainment, sports, etc.
- Located on southwest side
- Silver horseshoe on each bar chair
- Tables covered with maps of Texas trail rides and rivers
- Located on northeast side
- Tables covered with star football players from Texas
- Located on southeast side
- Tables covered with official icons of Texas, such as state flower, state bird, etc.
- The floor covering on the Club level also reflects Texas heritage with carpet with the state of Texas, and carpet with broncs and footballs.
- Rodeo secretary offices and contestant dressing rooms are located in the northwest quadrant on the service level.
- Contestant dressing rooms, with separate accommodations for cowboys and cowgirls, provide comfortable areas for contestants to prepare for competition and to utilize separate hydrotherapy areas.
- Uniquely Rodeo, the dressing rooms are adorned with Rodeo tiles and a red, white and blue theme. Across the hall from the dressing rooms, rodeo contestants' families are able to watch, wait and cheer in a special family room.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ has a home for its collection of Western art bronzes thanks to a grant from The Wortham Foundation, Inc.
Carruth Plaza has transformed a prime corner of NRG Park into a Western art sculpture garden — a sanctuary of bronze sculptures, Texas style landscaping and a flowing stream. The tranquil setting offers Rodeo visitors a place to gather and relax away from the hustle and bustle of other activities.
Named after Allen H. "Buddy" Carruth, who served as president of The Wortham Foundation and president and chairman of the board of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the plaza is located between NRG Astrodome and NRG Stadium, directly across from NRG Center. The Plaza is a tribute to the renowned Houston philanthropist who dedicated many hours to serving the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the people of Harris County.
Carruth Plaza is home to a unique collection of large-scale bronzes representing the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Texas' Western heritage. Eight pieces, many by Houston artists, are included in the Plaza.
The landscaping of the plaza reflects a Texas heritage, too, with native Houston and Texas plants such as cactus, yuccas and Live Oak trees. A stream flowing through Carruth Plaza creates a soothing atmosphere for visitors. Seating has been placed in close proximity to each work of art for maximum enjoyment.
As with the previous sculpture locations, bronze donors are recognized on plaques accompanying the artwork. Information about each sculpture is included at the site and also is available in Braille.
Summoning weary cowboys to the chuck wagon, "Cookie" stands ready to ring the dinner bell with hand to mouth to call the cowboys in. Created by Eric Kaposta, the bronze was unveiled in 1997.
Dreams and Memories
The Rodeo impacts people of all ages, as depicted in "Dreams and Memories" by Jim Reno. A Texas Sesquicentennial gift dedicated in 1986, this work represents the Rodeo's past and future through a youngster with a calf peering up at a cattleman on horseback.
H. Stuart Lang Jr.
Created by Cowboy Artist Hall of Fame member and Rodeo Lifetime Director Mark Storm in 1993, the bronze, "H. Stuart Lang Jr.," commemorates Lang's legacy with a rendition of the Astrodome, Astrohall and Astroarena at the foot of the statue. Lang served as the Rodeo's president from 1963 to 1966 and was instrumental in the Rodeo's move to the Astrodome complex.
The bond between a boy and his dog is portrayed in "Team Ropers." Created by Veryl Goodnight and dedicated in 1991, the bronze shows a boy holding a rope while his canine companion tugs on it playfully.
Created by Robert Summers, six majestic Texas Longhorns are guided by two vaqueros on horseback in "Texas Legacy." A gift in 1987, the bronze epitomizes Texas' Western heritage.
Vivian L. Smith
A former minority owner of the Houston Astros, Vivian L. Smith and her husband, R.E. "Bob" Smith, were an important part of the development of the Astrodome complex.
Wild and Free
Created in celebration of the Rodeo's 60th anniversary in 1992, Edd Hayes' "Wild and Free" portrays the spirit of freedom through three mares, two colts and a stallion.
The excitement of victory is captured in "Yes!" The work of Lawrence M. Ludke, the sculpture portrays a young girl holding a first-place ribbon in her right hand, extended upward in joy.