The people of Houston and of Harris County paid a lot of money to put a retractable roof on top of Reliant Stadium. Nobody can quantify the amount of money spent, but the roof is supposed to have increased the cost of the stadium by nearly 50-percent. So when the Texans refuse to open the roof on those few beautiful fall days that the city can actually get, the question has to be: why?
The Houston Chronicle's outstanding science reporter, Eric Berger, attempted to answer that question yesterday (warning: it's behind the paywall). He debunked the so-called weather theory, noting that the Texans have pretty much ignored their own policy for when the roof should open, namely on those days when the temperature is between 50-80 degrees and there is no threat of rain. Berger notes that in 22 of the 46 games where the roof has been closed, the temperature was between 50 and 80 and there was no rain.
So with that question addressed, the question becomes those of why isn't the roof opened under the stated conditions? Why was the money wasted on a retractable roof that doesn't retract? And since the retractable roof was demanded by the Texans, is there any way of getting Bob McNair to refund the city and county the money used to build that roof?
The Texans claim they keep the roof closed because of fan complaints. And it can be agreed that the Texans made mistakes in the past with the roof, especially during that infamous Pittsburgh game back in 2005 which resulted in fans suffering from heat stroke and Dom Caper's attempt to gain a competitive advantage over the Steelers fail in a big, big way.
But the 50-80 degree policy was drafted as a result of that Pittsburgh game, so once again, what's the deal? If the Texas Bowl can be played with an open roof on an overcast day with the temp in the 50s, why can't the Texans play an open roof game under ideal weather conditions?
If it is an issue with the fans, then what does it say about Houston Texans fans? Nobody's asking for the roof to be open during early September games when the heat index is in the 100s, but there's no excuse for the fans to whine when the temp is in the 70s. It also needs to be noted that fans in Miami and Tampa Bay seem to be able to withstand outdoor football games in August and September, and that the stadiums are always packed with screaming fans in Denver, Chicago, and Green Bay even when there's a blizzard. Even the Astros have gotten into the habit of keeping the roof open for games throughout most of May, when the temp is starting to get hot and uncomfortable.
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Berger also discusses the supposed competitive advantage that comes from keeping the roof closed, noting that the roof has been closed 92-percent of the time since the Texans started actually winning football games - it has not been open for a Texans since a game against Jacksonville in November of 2011. But the Seahawks' stadium in Seattle is reportedly louder, decibel-wise during game, and there's no roof on that thing. So the whole closed roof keeping the place louder doesn't really hold up.
This wouldn't be a big deal but for the costs involved. The only reason there's a retractable roof is the Texans. The Rodeo didn't ask for it, and doesn't need it. No other event in the stadium requires the use of a roof that can open and shut. So it's all just a ton of money that was wasted - as Gerber notes in his story, Bob McNair only paid about $50 million of the $449 million cost. Thus there's just no reason to keep the roof shut when the weather conditions are ideal and fall within the guidelines established by the Texans.
So if it is the fans, if the fans really are whining about sitting outdoors on cool November afternoons, then it has to be asked just what kind of fans it is that the Texans have? Football fans throughout the United States put up with worse, more extreme weather conditions on an ongoing basis, yet those stadiums are continuously packed. Hell, if Astros fans can make it through an Astros game with an open Minute Maid Park roof, then surely Texans fans can sit in the sunlight in October.
But nothing's going to change. The team's weather policy will probably continue to be ignored. The roof will continue to remain closed on glorious Sunday afternoon's in October, and there's nothing that will get back the money spent on a retractable roof requested by the Texans that the Texans refuse to open. Though it is going to be curious to see if it's opened up for any of the UH football games to be played there this season.