TC TURNS 15

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta teases future of Toyota Center as stadium turns 15

Toyota Center is credited for helping rejuvenate downtown. Courtesy photo

This story originally appeared on CultureMap/Houston.

October marks the 15th anniversary of the opening of Toyota Center, the home of the Houston Rockets and hundreds of concerts over the decade-and-a-half since it opened its doors. It was the second stadium of four that were constructed within seven miles of one another in the last 20 years — and that doesn’t include University of Houston’s new TDECU Stadiumand under-construction Fertitta Center across the street.

More importantly, the three stadiums within eight blocks of one other — Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, and BBVA Compass Stadium — have radically altered the landscape of downtown, which coincided with the urban renewal that launched projects like Discovery Green and the recent transformation of Avenida De Las Americas.

That wasn’t always the case. There were many who doubted the ability of sports stadiums to attract visitors into downtown from the suburbs, let alone convince them to live there. Prior to Minute Maid Park, that part of downtown — most of downtown for that matter — was largely vacant after 6 pm and on weekends. Few developers were taking chances on the abandoned warehouses and empty lots that dotted the east side of downtown.

Now, the entire area is loaded with prime real estate, a fact that is not lost on Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta. “Everything that’s happening [around Toyota Center], that’s all happened after the fact,” Fertitta says during a press conference.

Just on the other side of the George R. Brown Convention Center, Astros owner Jim Crane remains committed to his slice of downtown. He recently renewed his team’s lease at Minute Maid Park through 2050 — it had been set to expire in 2030. “The Astros look forward to furthering our investment in downtown Houston,” Crane says in a statement in July after signing the new lease.

Fertitta acknowledged that the Astros saw the value of his ballpark’s address and the boom in construction around the area when he decided to extend the team’s lease. “That’s what Jim saw with Minute Maid. You’ve got the two hotel bookends. Behind one hotel is us. Behind the other hotel is Minute Maid Park.”

Fertitta hasn’t committed to sign a new lease at Toyota Center — the current lease runs through 2033 — though he understands the value of both the location and the building itself. “It’s a great building,” he says. “And now that you have cities expanding the way they have, you’re running out of land to build a project like Toyota Center.”

Considering what the area looked like before either Minute Maid Park or Toyota Center existed, it is clear those stadiums were vital to the improvements of downtown. From new residential developments to the boom in retail just across U.S. 59 in EaDo, the entire area owes its success, at least in part, to these facilities. Read the rest of the story here.

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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