Toyota Center Houston is primarily a sports arena and home to the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association and the Aeros of the American Hockey League. It is located a block to the south of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston. It has a seating capacity of 18,300 for basketball games, 17,800 for hockey matches, and 19,300 for concerts and similar events. There are 2,900 club seats and 103 luxury suites. Named for the car company from Japan, it is one of many similar facilities—from the Minute Maid Field (also in Downtown Houston) to the Staples Center in Los Angeles—that have allowed large corporations sponsorship and naming rights in exchange for substantial financial consideration.
Luxury hotels near the Toyota Center Houston include the Hilton Americas and Four Seasons. There are other hotels in the vicinity, and the arena is in close proximity to the downtown area’s numerous nightlife, dining, and shopping venues. Other attractions in the downtown area include the prestigious Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Aquarium. Many free concerts and other events are held in downtown’s Sam Houston Park (where the Theatre Under the Stars is located) and in front of the Convention Center in the new Discovery Green Park. Sam Houston Park is the location of the Heritage Society, a complex that includes nine historic structures forming a history of Houston. The buildings date from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. This is one of the city’s museums that has free admission; guided tours of the historic buildings are available for a fairly modest fee.
Houston Rockets history actually begins in 1967 when the team was first formed in San Diego. The team did not have a very illustrious first few seasons, and the Houston Rockets were purchased in 1970 and moved to Houston. They retained the nickname as it was quite representative of their new home; the city has long been a center of the aerospace industry and Johnson Space Center with its iconic Mission Control is located here. They moved to The Summit, near where the Astrodome is currently located, in 1975. Today this former sports arena is a megachurch (the Lakewood Church), and only church activities are held there. For the next 25 years, Houston Rockets history was looking up as the team steadily improved, relying on their “Twin Towers,” Ralph Sampson and Hakeen Olajuwon. (In the sport of basketball, the term Twin Towers refers to two very tall, dominant players.) The Houston Rockets made the championships in 13 out of 15 seasons during this time.
In 2002, Houston Rockets history was looking up (way up) again, when the team signed 7-foot 6-inch Yao Ming of China. In 2003, the Rockets moved north past the Museum District and into the Toyota Center Houston in the downtown area. While this is known as a sports arena, the first event held here was a Fleetwood Mac concert. In addition to concerts with big name headliners, other events include Harlem Globetrotters exhibition games, performances by the famed Lipazzaners of the historic Spanish Riding School from Vienna, and the unique Cirque du Soleil based in Montreal.
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