Hofheinz Pavilion – Houston Cougars
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Hofheinz Pavilion Passes to Fertitta Center
The University of Houston’s first permanent home for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams opened on December 1, 1969 on the corner of Holman Street and Cullen Boulevard. Hofheinz Pavilion is an 8,479 multi-purpose arena that is home to both of the University of Houston’s basketball programs, as well as the women’s volleyball team. The building is named after Judge Roy Hofheinz and his wife Irene, in recognition of their $1.5 million donation toward the $4.5 million construction cost. Many sports fans may recognize Hofheinz as the Houston politician, businessman, and philanthropist who was part of the group that created the Houston Colt .45s franchise, which is now the Houston Astros. Hofheinz was also involved in the development of Astroturf, and was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The basketball court at Hofheinz Pavilion is named after former UH Head Coach Guy V. Lewis.
In its early years, Hofheinz Pavilion was used for more than just University of Houston sporting events. The venue was the city of Houston’s main attraction for concerts by famous artists, and the Houston Rockets used the arena as their first home in Houston from 1971 to 1975, before moving into the Summit. In addition, the venue was also used for other purposes, such as UH graduation ceremonies, as well as area high school commencements.
Hofheinz Pavilion’s biggest splash, however, came between 1982 and 1984, when the Houston Cougars basketball team was one of the best college teams in the country, appearing in three consecutive NCAA Final Fours. The team consisted of future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, and became known as the Phi Slamma Jamma.
Hofheinz Pavilion has had a few renovations since it opened in 1969; the last one was in 1998, when luxury boxes were added around the concourse, reducing the seating capacity from 10,000 to 8,918. The arena will soon close for a $60 million facelift, after which it will be renamed the Fertitta Center, scheduled to open in 2018.
The largest attendance ever at Hofheinz Pavilion was on March 5, 1990 for a basketball game versus Texas.
Food & Beverage 2
The inside of Hofheinz Pavilion feels more like going to the movies than going to a basketball game. The concessions stand décor is exactly like walking up to the concessions at a movie theater, as it consists of two circular red stands. This set up, although unique compared to other venues, doesn’t enhance the food and beverage selection at Hofheinz Pavilion. The menu isn’t even up to movie standards, and even the pricing is as basic as the food. The food selection includes hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, candy, popcorn, and soft pretzels; the price of these items is between $4 and $6, plus $1 to add chili or cheese if you want them.
The beverage selections at Hofheinz Pavilion are Coca-Cola products, including Dasani bottled water or PowerAde, all at a cost of $4 to $5 depending on size. The real treat is that there are “Free Refill” stickers you can put on your soda cup, so soda becomes the best deal. Hofheinz Pavilion also offers alcohol, including beer, wine, and margaritas, for $7 to $9.
Although the concessions are lacking based on today’s expectations, they have satisfied many fans over the 700+ basketball games held here to date. However, the concessions will soon be improved and brought up-to-date, as the food and beverage area is part of the $60 million dollar upgrade that will be done before the doors re-open in 2018.
Hofheinz Pavilion has served as the home court for Houston Cougars basketball for 48 years, and there is much fanfare outside “The HOF” on game day. Hofheinz Pavilion is a concrete building with doors that look like a college library. The arena has a capacity of 8,479. As you walk through the doors into the open lobby, a circular concessions stand greets the public, and a circular concourse sits above the basketball court; there are also luxury boxes at the top of the seating area that were added during the 1998-99 season. Every seat in Hofheinz Pavilion is cushioned, which provides a comfortable movie-like experience. The comfortable seats are arranged in a bowl style, while the signature scoreboard hangs from a low ceiling. This scoreboard provides outstanding theater acoustics, and comes equipped with video panels on all four sides. The low ceiling and the arrangement of the seating area, along with the HD acoustics, can make it an electric experience and tough on opponents. This has been proven with the Cougars winning percentage being around .765 since the building opened in 1969.
The college atmosphere brings spirit squads, school mascots, and the band to the game, and the UH spirit squads bring passion and noise. The Spirit of Houston pep band is located along the end line next to the student section, while the spirit squads are split, with the cheer team on one baseline and the dance team on the other. The most intriguing song that is played during the game is the UH “Womp, Womp, Talking about the Cougars” song. UH also has two costumed mascots, Shasta and Sasha, that entertain the crowd with various performances, or spend time interacting with fans.
The past history of Houston basketball is well represented at Hofheinz Pavilion, as there are banners honoring past Cougars greats and season accomplishments. Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Elvin Hayes are not only former Houston Cougars greats, but also NBA Hall of Famers; if their retired jerseys hanging from the ceiling aren’t impressive, there are also banners for each of UH’s Final Four appearances.
Though the atmosphere has waned since then, at one time Hofheinz Pavilion had one of the best atmospheres in college basketball; when the Fertitta Center opens in 2018, the atmosphere will undoubtedly improve, and get much closer to what it once was.
Hofheinz Pavilion is located on the University of Houston’s campus, just southeast of downtown Houston, in an area known as the Greater Third Ward. The UH campus is also near two other institutions of higher learning, Rice University and Texas Southern University. The neighborhood toward Rice University is the Medical District, and home to the Houston Zoo. The area around the UH campus isn’t exactly fan friendly, but there are a few restaurants nearby. The fun-filled restaurants are on the south side, and are more convenient for TDECU Stadium than Hofheinz Pavilion. However, the list begins with fast foods chains such as McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Cabana, and Frenchy’s Chicken, while other restaurant options include sports pubs, such as Calhoun’s Rooftop on Calhoun Road. This pub is similar to the rooftop bars near Denver’s Coors Field, but without the stadium view. The food is good and the beer is cold, with lots of televisions to catch other game action. Next door to Calhoun’s is another choice, Pink’s Pizza, which is known for its deep-dish pies, but also serves a good selection of beer. Jimmy John’s is in the area as well, but as you walk toward the stadium through campus, there is another option, The Den Campus Pub. The Den offers 30+ beers on tap, so it easily becomes packed with hometown college students.
In addition to restaurants, Houston provides plenty of hotel options to choose from, so you’ll be able to find lodging that suits your needs and wallet. The closest lodging is the Hilton, across from the student union building on campus. This option is a University of Houston student-run hotel, which offers fans an easy, comfortable, and accessible stay for events on campus.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States, so there is of course plenty to do away from the UH campus. Check the Houston tourism website for more, but some attractions in the area include Saint Arnold Brewery, the Art Car Museum, Discovery Green, the Menil Collection, Houston Zoo, and possibly a Houston Rockets game.
Houston Cougars fans are similar to all other college sports fans, in that there are different levels of fandom. The most important fan in college sports is the college student (the people attending the school); they are the heart and soul of the atmosphere for college sports. The student section inside Hofheinz Pavilion continues to be the lifeblood of Houston basketball, but it is the other levels of fans that are missing inside “The HOF.” UH alums are supportive with donations, but with a basketball team that isn’t in the national limelight, it is tough to see their physical presence at games in Hofheinz Pavilion. Next are the fans that have no connection to the university, but being located in Texas, it is hard to get this type of fan excited about a game, unless it is on the gridiron. Like the alums, this group only seems to want to be present when the basketball team is being talked about nationally.
Nevertheless, through 48 years at Hofheinz Pavilion, over 3.4 million fans have attended Houston Cougars basketball games. The pinnacle of attendance here was during the Phi Slamma Jamma years, when 145,449 fans walked through the doors during the 1983-84 basketball season (an average of 9,697 per game). The attendance has never gone above 5,000 per game since the 1998-99 season, when an average of 8,479 fans saw the Coogs have a .500 record at home.
Cougars fans that do attend games here should be proud, as the home team has an impressive .765 winning percentage inside Hofheinz Pavilion. The Fertitta Center’s seating capacity will be around 4,800, which is perfect because “The HOF” will close with an average of about that number per game through its 48 years of service.
Hofheinz Pavilion is located on the corner of Cullen Boulevard and Holman Street on the campus of the University of Houston. The arena being on campus, and in a major US city such as Houston, gives you a few options to travel to the game other than by car. The Houston light rail has a stadium stop on the purple line just a short walk from the pavilion, just outside Gate 3 on the west end of TDECU Stadium. If this is your choice of transportation to the game, then plan your trip by going to the Metro Rail website. There are always taxis and buses as well if the light rail is not suitable for your needs. There is a parking garage adjacent to TDECU Stadium; however, this option is only for season ticket holders and donors. There is plenty of parking on campus, but don’t expect it to be free; the general parking lot is close enough and has plenty of parking spaces, and is well worth the cost of $5 per car. Due to conditions in the surrounding neighborhood, avoid trying to park for free.
Once at Hofheinz Pavilion, there are plenty of doors into the building that open into a wide concourse/lobby area. There is only one circular concourse, which is above the seating bowl. The concourse, concessions, bathrooms, and seating are all very easy and painless to access.
Return on Investment 4
Houston Cougars basketball ticket prices are reasonable at $10 to $25 each, which is a great price to watch a high caliber of college basketball, especially when conference teams such as UConn, SMU, Memphis, and Cincinnati visit Houston. Hofheinz Pavilion is also intimate, since it is more of an auditorium than a basketball arena. Every seat has a good view; the best investment is to opt for the cheapest ticket and possibly move to the lower level. The parking is a guaranteed cost of $5 unless you use public transportation, which is cheaper. The stadium concessions prices are standard with a low variety of choices on the menu, so eating before the game will be a better financial decision. If you plan ahead, you can come away with an above average or greater return on investment for an NCAA Division 1 basketball game at Hofheinz Pavilion. When the Fertitta Center opens, there is no question that ticket prices will rise from the current prices, however, with the new concessions, seating, and other renovations, you can expect the ROI to remain above average at least until the building has been broken in.
Hofheinz Pavilion is unique with the low ceiling and theater-like setting, and the arena was home to one of the greatest college basketball teams ever to take the court. The history of the Phi Slamma Jamma era is well-kept around the venue, and there is special remembrance for arguably UH’s greatest basketball player, Elvin Hayes (although Hayes didn’t get to play inside Hofheinz Pavilion, as the building was built after he was already becoming an NBA great). The future will surely have more extras available when Hofheinz Pavilion becomes the Fertitta Center. It has already been announced that the Hofheinz family name will continue to be associated with Houston basketball, including a statue of the late Judge Hofheinz outside the renovated arena.
For 48 years, Hofheinz Pavilion was the University of Houston’s star player in providing top notch college basketball entertainment; the arena’s most crucial accomplishment was bringing the Houston Cougars basketball team back to campus. A sellout crowd on March 5th, 2017 saw the career of Hofheinz Pavilion come to an end, as the current Cougars players joined past players in passing a basketball to one another, until the final (ceremonial) play of Elvin Hayes passing the ball to Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem Olajuwon finished the play, with a signature Phi Slamma Jamma dunk.
Olajuwon’s dunk, though, isn’t truly the final play of Hofheinz Pavilion’s great career; the final play is passing the ball to the Fertitta Center.
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