NRG Park, an entertainment and sports venue in Houston, Tex., was the site of a deadly tragedy on Nov. 5, 2021. During the concert performance of rapper Travis Scott at the Astroworld music festival, eight people died during an uncontrollable rush of people.
In the aftermath of the horrific scene, organizers and loved ones are asking how this was allowed to happen. Houston mayor Silvester Turner said, “There are a lot of unanswered questions.” Could the owners of NRG Park and organizers of the festival have done more to help prevent these deaths? Who owns NRG Park?
The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (HCSCC) is the current owner of NRG Park, which was formerly known as Reliant Park. In 2014, NRG Energy applied for the naming rights of the Reliant Park system to put its primary brand at the forefront.
NRG Energy's CEO and president is Mauricio Gutierrez, who says the company is working to “stay ahead of an ever-evolving energy climate with rising demands.”
NRG Energy purchased Reliant in 2009, and that was followed by a merger with GenOn Energy Inc. in 2012. Reliant had bought the naming rights to the stadium in 2002 for $300 million. NRG Park comprises multiple venues, including NRG Stadium for major sporting events, NRG Center for conventions, and the NRG Arena.
It’s the site of the Houston Texans’ home games. Two Super Bowls have been played at the stadium, in 2004 and 2017.
Is NRG Park safe?
According to some officials, the venue at NRG Park for the Astroworld Music Festival wasn't overcrowded. Houston fire chief Samuel Peña said the venue could have accommodated 200,000 people but was limited to 50,000, according to The New York Times. He noted that the issues appeared to be within the actual crowd, not at the exits.
What happened at NRG Park?
On Nov. 5, 2021, concertgoers at the performance of rapper Travis Scott found themselves in a dangerous situation. It’s unclear exactly how the chaos began. In addition to the eight confirmed deaths of people aged 14 to 27, many more concert-goers were treated for injuries at NRG Park and local hospitals.
A field medic for Astroworld Music Festival, Sami Anjum, said that concertgoers were “noncompliant” and hindered those trying to help. Part of the issue was confusion, as many concert attendees couldn't see what was happening. Some even said they didn’t know about the deaths and injuries until they were home.
Houston police chief Troy Finner told The New York Times that officials worried stopping the performance too soon could cause rioting and worsen the situation. Therefore, the concert didn't shut down immediately, but continued for around 40 minutes from the start of the deadly commotion.
This wasn't the first instance of crowd-control issues at the NRG Park venue. In 2019, three people were injured by trampling at the Astroworld Music Festival, which was launched by Travis Scott in 2018. Police presence was ramped up for this year’s festival, with 528 officers present versus only 47 at the 2019 event.
Correction: This article originally misstated that NRG Energy owns NRG Park. The venue is owned by the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (HCSCC).