Toyota Center

The Toyota Center is an indoor arena located in downtown Houston, Texas. It is named after the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota. The arena is home to the Rockets of the National Basketball Association, the principal owners of the building, and the Aeros of the American Hockey League.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander first began to request a new arena in 1995, and attempted to release the Rockets from their lease at The Summit, which ran until 2003. However, he was denied by arena owner Chuck Watson, then-owner of the Aeros, who also wanted control of a new arena. The two sides agreed to equal control over an arena in a deal signed in 1997, but the proposal was rejected by city voters in a 1999 referendum. It was not until the city and the Rockets signed an amended agreement in 2001, excluding the Aeros, that the proposal was accepted.

Construction began in July 2001, and the new arena was officially opened in September 2003. The total costs were $235 million, with the city of Houston paying the majority, and the Rockets paying for enhancements. Toyota paid $100 million for the naming rights.


In May 1995, several Texas sports teams, including the Houston Rockets, proposed legislation that would dedicate state tax revenue to build new arenas. Although the bill was failed in the Texas House of Representatives, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander announced he would continue to study the possibility of constructing a new arena in downtown Houston, saying the 20-year old Summit arena was too outdated to be profitable. Although the Summit's management said they could renovate the building for a small part of the cost of a new arena, the Rockets began talks with the city of Houston on a possible location for an arena, They also negotiated with Houston Aeros and Summit owner, Chuck Watson, to release them from their contract with the Summit, which ran until 2003.

As the negotiations continued into 1996, a panel appointed by Houston mayor Bob Lanier reported that building a new arena was "essential to keep pro sports in Houston". After Watson rejected a contract buyout proposal of $30 million, the Rockets filed a legal challenge against their lease, stating the "need to be able to buy out" of the lease. However, the city of Houston filed a counterclaim to force the Rockets to stay at the Summit, saying that if the Rockets did not honor their contract, then they might "have no incentive to honor any new agreement with the city of Houston to play in a new downtown sports arena". The validity of the lease was eventually upheld, and in April 1997, Lanier announced that the Rockets and Watson would have to agree to share control of the new arena equally, or lose access to it altogether. After both parties agreed to the terms, a bill that authorized increased taxes to pay for a new arena was signed into law in July, by then-Governor George W. Bush.

However, after the National Hockey League decided not to consider Houston as a location for an expansion team because of the indecision over the new arena, Lanier said that he would not have a referendum in November. The Rockets began an appeal in January 1998 against the court order to stay at the Summit, but then dropped it in May, because they felt that a new arena would be ready by the time they finished their lease. In January 1999, recently elected mayor Lee Brown guaranteed a referendum on the issue before the end of the year. After several months negotiating with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, the Rockets finalized a deal to pay half of the constructions costs, and a referendum was set for November 2. The deal was approved by Brown and the Houston City Council, but Watson started an opposition group against the referendum, saying the arena was "not in Houston's interest". On November 3, the results of the referendum were announced, and the arena proposal was rejected by 54% of voters. Alexander said "we never thought we would lose" and that they were "devastated by the loss".

After the vote, NBA commissioner David Stern said "if there's not a new building...I think it's certain that the team will be relocated." The Houston Sports Authority had not planned to meet with the Rockets until after the 1999–2000 NBA season ended, but after the Rockets began to talk to other cities about relocation, they resumed talks in February 2000. Although the Rockets continued to negotiate with Louisville, Kentucky. a funding plan for the arena in Houston was released in June. A final agreement was proposed on July 6, and both the Rockets and mayor Brown agreed to the terms. After the city council approved the deal, the proposal was placed on the November referendum ballot. Leading up to the vote, the Rockets stressed that there would be "no new taxes of any kind", although opponents said the new arena would raise energy consumption, and also contended that the public would pay for too much of the costs of the arena. Contributions for the campaign for the arena included donations of $400,000 from Reliant Energy, and a total of $590,000 in loans and contributions from Enron and Ken Lay, who the Rockets said was a "tireless" force in the campaign. On November 8, the arena was approved by 66% of voters.


According to the agreement signed, the city of Houston bought the land for the arena and an adjoining parking garage, which was near the George R. Brown Convention Center, and paid for it by selling bonds and borrowing $30 million. Morris Architects, designed the 750,000-square-foot (70,000 m2) building, and Hunt Construction was contracted to build the arena. A building formerly owned by Houston Lighting and Power Company was demolished to make way for the arena, and two streets were closed for the duration of the construction. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 31, 2001, and construction continued for 26 months.

At the request of Alexander, the arena was built 32 feet (9.8 m) below street level, so fans would not have to walk up stairs to reach their seats. To sink the arena, $12 million was spent to excavate 31,500 cubic yards of dirt over four months, which was the largest excavation in Houston history. Concrete was poured for the foundation throughout the summer of 2002, and structural work began in October. The roof was set on in December, as work continued inside, with a peak workforce of 650. In September 2003, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the official opening of the arena. The total cost of construction was $235 million, with the city paying $182 million, and the Rockets adding $43 million for additions and enhancements.

Arena interior

The arena can seat 18,300 for basketball, 17,800 for hockey, and 19,300 for concerts. The price for courtside seats to a Rockets game in the new arena were raised by as much as 50% compared to prices in the team's old home, while upper-deck seat prices were lowered. It has 2,900 club seats and 103 luxury suites, and the 2,500-space Toyota Tundra garage is connected to the arena by a private skybridge.

Levy Restaurants manages concession services at the arena, and offers fast food on the main concourses, while also catering a VIP restaurant for suite-holders. Alexander personally chose colors for the restaurant to help customers feel "warm and comfortable", and Rockets president George Postolos said that the Rockets looked "for a relationship with the people that attend events in our venue". A 40 feet (12 m) by 32 feet (9.8 m) centerhung video system, which has four main replay screens and eight other full-color displays, hangs from the ceiling of the arena, and has the highest-resolution display of any North American sports facility. The arena has two additional displays located at each end of the court, and a "state-of-the-art" audio system. All of the LED technology came from Daktronics out of Brookings, South Dakota.


In July 2003, the arena was named the Toyota Center, after Toyota agreed to pay $100 million for naming rights, the fourth-largest deal for a sports arena in the United States at the time. The logo of the company was placed on the roof of the building, as well in other prominent places inside the arena, and the company was given "a dominant presence" in commercials shown during broadcasts of games played in the arena.


The arena's first event was a Fleetwood Mac concert on October 6, 2003, and the first Rockets game at the Toyota Center was against the Denver Nuggets on October 30.

In its first year, the total attendance for events at the arena exceeded 1.5 million. The arena was also the winner of the Allen Award for Civic Enhancement by Central Houston, the "Rookie of the Year" award by the Harlem Globetrotters, and a finalist for Pollstar Magazine’s "Best New Concert Venue" award. The current attendance for a concert held at the arena was set on November 20, 2008, when Metallica played to a sold out crowd during the Death Magnetic tour. The record for a basketball game is 18,501, set on May 14, 2009, when the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, 95-80.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship held UFC 69 on April 7, 2007 and will also hold UFC 136 on October 8, 2011.

Many concerts have found place, in the Toyoto Center like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonce and Britney Spears.

Professional wrestling

The Toyota Center has hosted many WWE events, including Raw and SmackDown. On October 9, 2005 the Toyota center hosted WWE No Mercy. On June 24, 2007, it hosted WWE Vengeance: Night of Champions. On April 4, 2009, it hosted the induction ceremony for the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2009. On December 19, 2010 the arena hosted TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. It also hosted WWE SmackDown on March 8, 2011, which aired March 11, 2011.


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