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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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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