The Houston NFL Holdings group came to Populous (then HOK Sport) to begin the schematic design for the first-ever NFL retractable roof football stadium in 1997. The intention was to create a football stadium to replace the Astrodome that would operate like an open-air facility but have the intimacy and comfort of an indoor arena. With the design for football and the square footage requirements of the rodeo, the building was designed in the 1,900,000-square-foot (180,000 m2) range. Groundbreaking for the stadium was on March 9, 2000 and the building was officially topped off in October 2001. The stadium opened on August 24, 2002, with a preseason game between the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans which the Dolphins won 24–3. The stadium hosted its first regular season football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans on September 8, 2002. Construction was completed in 30 months. The first rodeo was held in the stadium in February 2003.
During a Texans preseason game on August 30, 2012, against the Minnesota Vikings, an intoxicated fan fell to his death from an escalator.
On March 19, 2014, the stadium was renamed NRG Stadium, after NRG Energy, the parent company of Reliant Energy.
During the 2015 season, a permanent artificial surface was installed at NRG Stadium. The Texans had used a natural surface since the stadium opened, using a system of trays of sod similar to one used at Giants Stadium in its experiment with using a grass surface. In recent years, the stadium installed artificial turf to be used during high school and college games while keeping the grass for Texans games. After the Texans' home opener, complaints about the field conditions finally led to the installation of the artificial surface for Texans games. The surface brand is UBU Speed, which is part of Act Global.
In 2017, NRG Stadium selected Hellas Construction to install its Matrix Turf with Helix Technology at the stadium. The three year contract calls for a new turf field each year.
Hurricane Ike damage
On the night of September 12–13, 2008 the stadium sustained damage from Hurricane Ike forcing the Houston Texans home opener scheduled for September 14 to be postponed. Part of the roof cladding came off, and there was wind and water damage to other sections of the stadium. There were also large pieces of debris inside the stadium from the hurricane and the stadium authority declared that the stadium did not suffer significant structural damage except for the roof, and the Texans would be able to play all of their 8 home games at Reliant Stadium with the roof open.
The Texans home opener against the Baltimore Ravens was initially postponed one day from Sunday, September 14, 2008 to Monday, September 15, but when the extent of the damage from Hurricane Ike became known, the NFL rescheduled the Texans & Ravens game to week 10 (November 9, 2008), which was to have been the bye week for the Ravens and the Texans scheduled home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. That game was rescheduled to week 8 (October 26), which was to have been the bye week for both the Texans and Bengals. The Bengals bye week was moved from October 26 to November 9, originally scheduled for the Ravens. Both the Texans and Ravens took their unexpected bye week in week 2, the weekend Hurricane Ike hit East Texas and the Gulf Coast, despite the fact that both teams were preparing that whole week to play that game as scheduled.
The stadium reopened on October 5, 2008 when the Texans hosted the Indianapolis Colts and hosted three additional home games in October.
The stadium was repaired by Houston-based rope access inspection and construction firm Reel Group Americas on February 13, 2009.