Toyota Center – Houston Rockets
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Where the Rockets Soar
The Toyota Center, home to the two-time NBA Champion Houston Rockets, has the great benefit of being centrally located in the heart of the city’s downtown. This location, as well as the abundance of opulence at the arena, consistently makes it one of the best venues in the league.
Since 2012, the Toyota Center has added two new luxury lounges on the court level behind the stands, as well as a brand-new video board. As the Rockets have once again risen to become one of the more exciting franchises in the Western Conference, this has all added up to make the Toyota Center a must visit for any basketball fan.
The Toyota Center has a multitude of concessions options; there is something here for virtually everyone’s tastes. Upscale hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, French fries, and tacos are found at multiple stands throughout each of the concourses, and these are above and beyond the traditional stadium fare, and should prove to be more than satisfying. There are also several alcoholic beverage options on each level as well, including beer, wine, and frozen margaritas.
However, the above is all a prologue to the new “star” concessions attraction at the Toyota Center. A new food “conveyance system” has been unveiled this season, and it is truly a game changer for sports fans: the Grub Tub! This is a truly monumental achievement in game time dining; in essence, the Grub Tub is a standard 32-ounce souvenir cup, but instead of a plastic lid, a bowl of food sits atop it, which the straw pokes through.
The ingenious design of the Grub Tub allows for the one-handed consumption of every manner of stadium food – hot dogs, French fries, nachos, popcorn, or hot wings; all are available as options. Gone are the Neanderthal days of scooting through an aisle to your seat and spilling food on your fellow fans! The Toyota Center is the first stadium in the NBA to offer this option.
The Toyota Center is a great venue for basketball. The arena pays homage to the team’s glory-filled past, while remaining firmly entrenched in the present day. Nods to the great Rockets teams of the past are scattered throughout the venue, especially as the Rockets are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a franchise this season.
Chants of “Red Nation” and “Clutch City” abound from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The stadium PA announcer plays perfectly to the crowd, virtually mumbling the opposing players’ names while boisterously shouting out the Rockets’ names as they score.
The atmosphere is also greatly enhanced on the periphery of the game action, namely by the Rockets Power Dancers – the Houston Rocket’s award-winning dance troop – and Clutch “The Rockets Bear,” the team’s oft-hilarious mascot. Kids of all ages will enjoy the perfectly choreographed dance routines and the antics of the beloved mascot.
The Toyota Center is right in the heart of Houston’s downtown area. Within walking distance is Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, and BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo and Texas Southern Tigers football team. Also within shouting distance is the George R. Brown Convention Center, as well as literally dozens of hotels and restaurants.
If you’re looking for ways to spend the afternoon before or after a Rockets game, you really would have a hard time finding a better place to spend it than in Houston’s Museum District. This area is home to nearly 20 museums, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, and Houston Children’s Museum. Hermann Park is also one of the great green spaces in the entire state, and is home to the Houston Zoo.
You can also while away your time at the Houston Galleria, just down the road off I-35. This mammoth shopping mall is home to an ice skating rink, as well as dozens of high-end shopping and dining experiences.
Since the days of Calvin Murphy, Hakeem Olajuwon, and the Houston Summit, Rockets fans have been considered among the most loyal in the NBA. Houston fans have seen some great years, including the team’s back-to-back title winning seasons in 1994 and 1995, as well as some lean years, but Red Nation has always come out to support its team.
Rockets fans have proven to be knowledgeable about the game, and respectful of eras past. During any game, you’ll find fans decked out in Olajuwon, Drexler, Yao, and Harden jerseys. Also, everywhere you look, you’ll see red and gold.
During their 50th anniversary season, the team retired Hall of Famer Yao Ming’s jersey, and is conducting a series of bobble-head nights to honor greats of the past. They have also commissioned a coffee table book celebrating the team’s history.
Getting to the Toyota Center is going to take some work. Unlike Minute Maid Park and BBVA Compass Stadium, which are right off of I-59, you will have to do some navigating to get to the Toyota Center. Also, while there are multiple parking options near the arena, you can expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $30 depending on how close you want to be.
One option is hopping on board the METRORail mass transit system. This very affordable train line can pick you up from almost any point in downtown Houston, and will drop you off very close to the Toyota Center.
Return on Investment 3
Like most NBA games, ticket prices at the Toyota Center vary wildly. On any given game night, you can expect to spend anywhere from $29 to $3,500 for a single game ticket (depending on where you want to sit, of course). For food, you can expect to spend as much as $20 by yourself, and more if you are with friends or family; it is an investment to attend an NBA game these days.
However, as well as the Rockets have been playing of late, and with the chance to see a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate in James Harden, in a setting like the Toyota Center, it is definitely worth the money you will spend.
There are multiple team stores throughout the Toyota Center, including an extra large one on the main concourse level. The team stores have jerseys which you can personalize/customize, as well as t-shirts, hats, and other items; all the expected accoutrements of fandom.
However, where the Toyota Center really goes above and beyond is on its upper concourse level. Here, fans will find the Memorial Hermann Sky Court. This 5,000-square foot interactive play zone is designed for younger fans, to give them even more excitement and fun out of a Rockets game. There are video games, arcade-style/pop-a-shot games, and props that Clutch has used over the course of his long career. The play zone is free to enter, and is sure to be a hit with younger game attendees.
For older fans, make it a point to visit the newly installed Legends Locker Room. This area is literally a locker room with game jerseys and mementos from some of Houston’s all-time great players. The highlight here is the actual center court from the legendary Houston Summit, which is a great photo op for all fans.
Flat out, the Toyota Center is a gorgeous venue for basketball. The Rockets are playing extremely well, and have a good group of young and exciting players on their team. In addition, the concessions, especially the Grub Tub, are top rate, and all of the in-stadium experiences make this venue well worth a trip.
Basketball fans, you must put the Toyota Center on your bucket list of stadiums to visit, and for fans of other sports, if you are in Space City on a game day, spend the money and take a visit to ground zero of Clutch City.
Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
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