A few things recent transplants and visitors to Austin notice: everyone is friendly, there are plenty of super fit and tan people and during the fall months, football is king. Despite our collective interest, bordering on obsession, on getting out there and being active, Austin is the largest city in the U.S. and Canada without a professional sports franchise. This one of the reasons we agonize over the minutae of the Texas Longhorns football team, since they are the biggest ticket in town.
A friend of mine in Dallas took her sons on a tour of Cowboys Stadium, which made me wonder whether there are tours of the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. After a little research, I discovered that tours are offered on Fridays and Mondays. When I called to inquire, I learned that these tours are relatively new, and as I suspected, not really targeting kids. But for $10 a person, I decided to take the chance.
After mistakenly showing up to the stadium on Labor Day, when the place was deserted (doh!), Fan Services cheerfully changed my tickets to the following Monday after school. Right now, tours are offered in the mornings and right after elementary school. We went on a Monday 3:30pm tour, and we found we had plenty of time to get from school down to campus, park in the Manor garage and head over to the Red McCombs Red Zone, where the tour begins. For those of you who couldn’t make the tours at the times that are currently offered, Fan Services offers private group tours for 15 or more and you can also opt for a free self-guided tour.
We were greeted by two enthusiastic students when we entered the building, and went to pick up our tickets we had ordered online at the Will Call window (no walk ups are allowed). Our tour was my son, his friend, his friend’s mom, about 5 other students and I, so it was a pretty small group. We started the tour at the original gates for the stadium, which is now in the food court area. The stadium originally seated 27,000. After several additions, a whopping 100,119 fans can now cheer on the Longhorns.
After hearing about the student athletes who are part of the University of Texas community, we visited the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports (which is open to the public). The Center is an archive of materials related to the fields of physical culture and sports. Then we traveled up to the upper deck of the stadium, where we could take in some great views of downtown and other parts of the city. The tour guides were great at engaging my son and his friend, asking them questions and making them really feel like a part of the tour. We also got a great tip: when you are wondering why the tower is orange, just visit Why Is the Tower Orange Today?
When we were finished taking in the views, the tour guides took us inside one of the luxury boxes. We sat inside for a little bit and had a chance to experience what it must be like to take in a game if you are part of the 1%. We also learned about Bevo and found out there is a whole museum, with free admission, dedicated to the big guy inside of the stadium (alas, we didn’t have time to check it out). Then, we retraced our steps back to the stadium’s north entrance to walk around the stadium and see some of the memorials and statues on our way to the south entrance.
Once we re-entered the stadium, we had a chance to go down the tunnel the players come down before games and spend a few minutes out in the south end zone. It was pretty surreal to be down on the field and look up and imagine what it would be like on game day.
After spending time on the field, the tour guides took us to the Mike Campbell-Bobby Moses, Jr., Football Trophy Room, where we could see the Heisman and National Championship trophies, as well as statues from prominent Longhorns from the past few decades. The tour concluded here and it seemed to be just the right duration, time-wise (under an hour) and distance-wise (the site says about a mile walk) for our antsy seven-year-olds.
Even as an Austin native, I learned a lot during the DKR Stadium tour, and I know my kid will have more of an appreciation and understanding of what it’s like to be a student athlete after learning all about the stadium. Although I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve never taken him to one of the games, after the tour, I’m thinking it might be time. Until then, I’ll just have to relish the feeling of going through the tunnel and hearing the crowd cheer me on. In my head, of course.
Are you a Longhorn fan? Have you ever toured DKR, or another pro stadium?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]