Anjuli Shaw 2017-01-24 03:54:16
We Built This City FOR 20 YEARS, THE HARRIS COUNTY–HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY HAS HELPED PUT HOUSTON ON THE MAP AS A SPORTS CITY The Harris County–Houston Sports Authority was established in 1997 by local government and charged with the task of financing and building professional sports venues within Houston. Its inception resulted from the Houston Oilers’ leaving town, with other pro teams threatening to follow suit. Two decades later, the HCHSA has financed and built four stadiums, none of which relied on local tax dollars. Funding for the stadiums comes from hotel and motel taxes, rental car taxes, and rent that the teams pay to use the venues. These state-of-the-art stadiums serve as sites for numerous sporting events and festivals, bringing enthusiasts from all over to Houston. “We are very proud of all of them,” said HCHSA Chairman of the Board Kenny Friedman, speaking of the major stadiums. “We built all four for less than they spent in Dallas on the Cowboys’ stadium.” The whole process comes full circle: events held at these venues bring in tens of thousands of tourists at a time, which then helps to fuel the local economy. Those dollars go back to the stadiums and the events held in them. “It’s all very positive,” Friedman says of the impact the sports industry has on the local economy. “They fill up hotel rooms, rent cars, buy meals, shop in our shopping malls. Anytime you bring tourists to town they are just adding to whatever else is going on.” The first park constructed after the birth of the HCHSA was Minute Maid Park, which was approved for construction in 1997. The park opened for play in the spring of 2000, revealing a real grass field and an impressive retractable roof. Not long after opening, Minute Maid Park was awarded the National Honor Award for Engineering Excellence from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), making it one of the top 24 engineering projects in the nation. Home to the Houston Rockets basketball team, the Houston Toyota Center has 18,300 seats for basketball fans and can accommodate up to 19,000 for concerts. After itss opening in 2003, the Toyota Center quickly became known as one of the finest entertainment venues in the country, and was awarded the Silver Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in 2010. Spanning 12 acres and accommodating 22,000 attendees, the BBVA Compass Stadium opened in May 2012, making it the newest major stadium in the city. Soccer fans can catch Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash matches there, and the stadium hosted part of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. This venue is also known for its sustainable design and was awarded the LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in December 2012. NRG Stadium began construction in 2000 and became home to the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, among other major events. Boasting the first retractable roof at an NFL stadium, NRG Stadium will host Super Bowl LI on February 5, 2017. “We are all excited about the Super Bowl coming to town,” said Friedman, who serves on the board of directors for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. The sports industry in Houston adds entertainment and economic value to the area, and the local community shows its support and appreciation in return by stepping up in a big way. “We use huge numbers of volunteers for all of these events, and that’s coming in handy now as we are assisting with the Super Bowl,” Friedman said. “We will have 10,000 volunteers during that week, ready to go.” Also coming up in 2017, Houston is proud to host the International Bass Fishing Tournament, which is estimated to bring in 30,000 people. Fishing will take place at Lake Conroe and weighing will be held at Minute Maid Park. The 2017 World Corporate Games will also be held in Houston, marking the first year the event has taken place in the United States. This multisport festival allows corporations, organizations, and businesses to create teams and compete against one another in all types of events, from badminton to bowling. “All of these events are big moneymakers for communities,” said Friedman. “They are competitively bid and chased to convince people that Houston is the right place to put their events.” The chasing and securing of events like those that Friedman mentioned is the job of Janis Burke, CEO of HCHSA, and her team. “Janis Burke is terrific and has a great team,” Friedman said. He credits her for helping to put Houston on the map as a sports city. “Over the last eight to 10 years we’ve established a worldwide reputation as a great sports town, and we’re all really proud of that. . . . Some people like the opera, some like sporting events. It’s a terrific outlet. Any major city has to have things that are attractive for its citizens to enjoy. We are thrilled to be at the forefront of all those things.”
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