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.

 

Things are not going well, even when Paul and Harden are both healthy. Tim Warren/Getty Images

Sometimes sports do a great job of making people look silly. Take, for example, last week when I predicted that the Rockets would go undefeated this week. With a slate of just near .500 or below teams, a fully healthy Rockets squad, and a group that had just recently embarrassed San Antonio and Chicago, it seemed like a safe call. What I've learned from the past three games, however, is that there is nothing predictable about this Houston Rockets team, as constructed.

Instead of a sweep, the Rockets were swept.

Tuesday night the Rockets were completely dismantled by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Leading 62-48 at the half, Houston imploded and followed with a 29-55 second half. James Harden would lead the Rockets as usual with 29 points, but beyond himself and Capela's 24 points, there was zero support as the next highest scorer was Eric Gordon with 10. The loss dropped Houston to 11-12 for the season.

Thursday gave the Rockets yet another opportunity to climb back to .500 against an equally underperforming Utah Jazz team. It looked as though fortune was swinging Houston's way when Utah's defensive anchor, Rudy Gobert, earned an early ejection, but instead it seemed that the send off galvanized Utah fans and Jazz alike. The result was a very thorough dusting of the Rockets, behind a 24 point, 10 rebound performance from Derrick Favors. Houston saw five separate players in double digits, but none higher than Harden's 15. Houston shot 8-36 from 3-point range as they fell to 11-13 on the season.

Saturday the Rockets traveled to Dallas for a quick rematch following last week's blowout defeat. It looked like Houston would finally be off the schneid until the dad-bod himself, Luka Doncic fired off 11 straight points to leapfrog the Rockets late in the fourth. Doncic would finish with 21 points against the Rockets. Harden would once again lead Houston in scoring with 35 points and 8 assists. Chris Paul followed with 23 points and 8 assists. Their third straight loss would drop the Rockets to 11-14. After 25 regular season games, Houston is now 14th out of 15 Western Conference teams.

Short on Excuses

Until now, there's been an easily explainable reason behind Houston's slow start. At first it was a matter of missing either Harden or Paul. Then it was a matter of health. Then their defense. And then their poor shooting.

The issue now is that every one of those excuses is null. The team is as healthy as it's been this season. Rockets' defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik has returned to the sideline. Houston's offense remains rated one of the best in the league prior to this week.

There comes a point in the season where, despite the team's potential, you have to begin to judge a team based off of their record. And at this point in the season, Houston just doesn't look good.

Looking ahead

Houston had their chance to notch a few victories and they squandered it. Now they get to face the meat of the conference, with matchups against the Trail Blazers Tuesday, the Lakers Thursday, and Memphis Saturday. What you have there is competition against the 5th, 6th, and 7th seeds, which doesn't bode well after being stomped by the 11th and 13th seeds just this past week. Nothing about the Rockets makes sense anymore and until there's any semblance of inspired play, I don't expect Houston to win any of these contests.



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