The new Fertitta Center proves to be a fortress for Houston basketball
Tilman Fertitta reminisced about his times in the old Hofheinz Pavilion as he dribbled out a basketball to center court during the pregame ceremony in front of a sold out crowd of 7,035 at the new Fertitta Center.
“I have the memories of Hofheinz Pavilion as a kid watching basketball games here and it was a great arena back then. Now, to be here 40 years later and to be such a big part of this is special.” said Fertitta.
Judge Roy Mark Hofheinz was a man who shared a similar vision as Fertitta. “We’ll build a stadium that will make Emperor Titus’s playhouse look like an abandoned brickyard.” he exuded. Titus’s playhouse is better known as the Roman Colosseum. The staunch Houston weather made sporting events a drag for locals, but his idea was even bigger than the city itself. In 1965, the completion of the Astrodome revolutionized how we watch sports throughout the world by being the first climate controlled indoor stadium.
Hofheinz was a man that loved the city of Houston as much as Fertitta does. If he were alive to see the old Hofheinz Pavilion transform into the new Fertitta Center, it would be difficult for even him to disapprove. The University of Houston has an adequate successor, while a statue of Judge Hofheinz stands triumphantly on the new grounds.
Fertitta donated $20 million dollars to the University of Houston to rejuvenate the new home of Cougar Basketball, nearly a third of the facility’s final cost. His eagerness to help the athletics program at the university has earned him the immortalization that comes with naming the building after him, and an induction into the UH Athletics Hall of Honor alongside UH President Renu Khator.
Exactly 48 years later to the day of when Hofheinz Pavillion first opened its doors, the Fertitta Center did the same and received the promising NBA prospect 7’2 Bol Bol, and the then No. 18 Oregon Ducks.
As UH won the tip off, you could gauge how tough it will be for other schools to come in and steal a win. The intimate arena does not have a single bad seat, and its low ceilings seemingly offers a huge acoustic home team advantage. That advantage was confirmed as Jr. Guard Armoni Brooks opened up the scoreboard by hitting back to back 3-pointers. With the help of Senior Guard Corey Davis Jr. and Preseason AAC Freshman of the Year in Guard Nate Hinton, UH would go into halftime with a 37-18 lead.
There were zero lead changes in the entire game, but that doesn’t mean the Ducks didn’t come close to one. Bol Bol and company began to rally back into contention, where they even had a 10-0 run halfway through the second half. Houston began to give up rebounds, turnovers, and missed some important free throws. Coach Sampson even took off his tie, as he typically does when his team begins to lose traction in games. The score got as close as 63-61 with 11 seconds left, but Brooks closed the game out with two clutch, game sealing free throws.
Houston won its inaugural game at the Fertitta Center 65-61. They improve to 6-0 in the season and will play Lamar (Beaumont, TX) next. The Cougars extend their home win streak to 20 games, which is tied for second longest active streak. Oregon falls to 4-3, where they previously lost to another Houston school, TSU. The AP Poll came out Monday morning and dropped the Ducks, while UH remains unranked but is lingering to make a future appearance. The Coogs are also one in eleven teams who remain undefeated in all of college hoops.
Improvements and renovations to TDECU Stadium, Guy V Lewis Development Facility, Schroeder Park, and Fertitta Center all came within the last four years. As a result, we’ve seen the baseball and football programs continually improve and land better recruits year after year. Undoubtedly, the UH basketball program will follow and more than likely surpass the success of the other programs.
"One of the ways you build brand awareness is through your athletics department. It's a proven fact that if you have winning athletics, money pours back into the university." explained Fertitta.