Harvey Keeps Houston Sports Teams Away From Home -- Update

By Laine Higgins Features Dow Jones Newswires

Facing flooded fields and inundated roads from Tropical Storm Harvey that make traveling within the city of Houston near impossible, several college and professional sports teams have relocated to prepare for upcoming competition this weekend.

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The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers professional baseball teams will play a midweek three-game series that begins Tuesday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., with all revenue going toward hurricane relief. The neutral site will likely also serve as the American League-leading Astros' de facto home for this weekend's series against the New York Mets.

Both Texas teams also pledged to donate 100% of their proceeds from raffles held at games for this series; the Astros will continue the practice through the rest of the 2017 season.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has become the temporary home to the Houston Texans professional football team and two college programs: Rice University and the University of Houston.

After playing a preseason game in New Orleans on Aug. 26, the Texans opted to bypass a stop at home and fly directly to Dallas. This week the Texans are sharing practice facilities with the Dallas Cowboys in Frisco, Texas, leading up to the teams' preseason game against each other on Thursday. That game was also moved from NRG Arena in Houston to AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

"It's completely draining," said Texans punter Shane Lechler of being away from his wife and two daughters in Richmond, a suburb southwest of Houston that has seen substantial flooding. "We get paid a lot of money to play a great game, but right now if you look around and watch the locker room, you're kind of having to draw together a little bit more tighter as a family."

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The University of Houston football team moved practices to the University of Texas in Austin after receiving an invitation from the Longhorns' new coach Tom Herman, who spent the previous two seasons with the Cougars. Rice is training at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the one city with enough hotel rooms available to host the Owls' travel party of 101 players and 91 support staff as they returned from their season opener against Stanford in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday.

The Rice football team watched from across the Pacific Ocean as Hurricane Harvey battered its campus in downtown Houston. While aboard the 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the team realized it had no conceivable way of getting home and scrambled to find an alternate destination. The team wound up in Dallas.

Chuck Pool, a spokesman for Rice's athletic department, said there was "no shortage of schools in Texas that were reaching out to help."

In addition to TCU, Mr. Pool said, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the University of Texas-El Paso and Baylor University in Waco all immediately offered to host Rice until the storm subsided. The Owls won't play their second game until Sept. 9, and have a little more wiggle room than Houston, who was set to open its season on the road against University of Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, but postponed the game in the wake of the storm. The Cougars will now play their first game at the University of Arizona on Sept. 9.

Though less far from home, Rice's women's volleyball team also was stranded in Dallas by Hurricane Harvey. The team is training at Baylor for the week before departing for an invitational tournament in Boulder, Colo., hosted by the University of Colorado.

None of the Houston-area teams know when they can return to the city, as receding floodwaters must precede such a trip.

"We'll come back the minute we think it's safe to come back," said Mr. Pool.

Despite the stress the storm has added, those affected are quick to find a silver lining.

"If you can bring something good out of this, it's that the whole state of Texas kind of has each other's back," Mr. Lechler said. "There's no other choice."

Jared Diamond contributed to this article.

Write to Laine Higgins at laine.higgins@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 29, 2017 19:29 ET (23:29 GMT)