The idea for a new stadium in Houston was first proposed in 1995 as the Rockets were by that point playing in a 20-year old arena (The Summit) which was hideously outdated. The main sticking point here was that the Rockets and Aeros owners had different visions for a new facility, a problem which saw the building of a new arena put on hold until 2001. Eventually all loose ends were tied up and the Toyota center was built and opened in 2003 at a cost of $235 million. A strange quirk here is that The Summit has been repurposed and is now the main facility for Lakewood Church.
With all the rumors of expansion and franchise movement in the late 1990’s, the Toyota Center was built on the premise that without it, Houston may lose the Rockets. The infighting on the arena actually cost the city a chance at an NHL team as it was reported that Houston was seen as a viable venue for expansion because of its market size, but that the hold up on a new stadium in in 1997 pushed the city out of the running.
The Toyota center can seat 18,055 for basketball, 17,800 for ice hockey and 19,300 for concerts. One of the cooler features of the arena is that it was built 32 feet below street level so that fans would not have to walk up stairs to reach their seats before a game or after visiting the concessions stands. This added an extra $12 million to the budget as over 31,000 yards of cubic dirt had to be excavated to get the arena sunk low enough to make this happen.
The club seating at the Toyota Center is come of the most luxurious around. The Rockets East & West Clubs have a fully private bar, extra wide seats and even concierge service for patrons. This, plus a host of private club and bar areas within the arena, were a big part of why a new arena, and not just an addition to The Summit, was necessary for Houston to bring in the money to compete in the NBA.
The location of the Toyota Center makes it perfect for concerts and as a result the arena has played host to everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Metallica. The arena also proved to be an excellent holding area in 2015 as 200 Rockets fans were stranded in the Toyota Center for around eight hours after heavy rainfall left the area around the arena flooded impassable.
image courtesy of houstonsports.org