Following a gift from businessman Tillman Fertitta, the University of Houston will name its renovated basketball arena the Fertitta Center.
Last month, it was reported that a previously announced $20 million donation to the project was from Fertitta, the CEO of Landry’s Inc. and chairman of the University of Houston’s Board of Regents. The university held off on confirming Fertitta’s involvement, in part because of a disagreement with the Hofheinz family, which questioned if a $1.5 gift from Roy and Irene Hofheinz that helped open the venue in 1969 assured naming rights for the building’s life. Ultimately, Fertitta’s name is slated to go on the venue currently known as Hofheinz Pavilion, while the Hofheinz family will be honored with a plaza, statue, street, and other features at the renovated arena.
“This gift is personal. It represents a commitment from my family and me to support the University of Houston in its quest to strengthen our nationally competitive institution both in academics and athletics,” Fertitta said. “Upgrading our athletics facilities shows we are serious about competing at the highest levels of collegiate sports for many years to come. I’m proud of where the University of Houston is today and I’m proud to make this investment in my university’s future.”
“We are committed to pursuing excellence in all aspects of higher education at the University of Houston,” said UH President Renu Khator, “and that includes being nationally competitive in athletics. This transformational gift from Chairman Fertitta will allow our basketball arena to be substantially enhanced, reclaiming its status as one of Houston’s — and the nation’s — premier sports venues. The chairman’s incredible generosity is rivaled only by his extraordinary dedication to improving our University.”
“Today is another great day to be a Houston Cougar. Thanks to the generous support of Chairman Tilman Fertitta and his family, and also for the support of the Hofheinz family not just for our University, but for the city as well. Our Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs will soon compete in the Fertitta Center, a facility that will be second to none,” Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “Behind the leadership of Tilman, Dr. Khator and our Board of Regents, this is an exciting time to be a part of UH Athletics, and we will continue to strive for excellence, academically, athletically and as leaders in our community, in all our sport programs.”
“Facilities are a critical part in college athletics today, and the Fertitta Center will play an important role as we recruit the best student-athletes to our campus. Combined with the Guy V. Lewis Development Facility, Houston Basketball will soon have the finest facilities in the country,” Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I am grateful to Chairman Tilman Fertitta and his family, the Hofheinz family, Dr. Khator and our Board of Regents for their commitment to our program, our Athletics Department and our University.”
The Fertitta gift is a significant step forward in the $60 million University of Houston Basketball capital renewal project for the center’s design and renovation. Design work is currently underway. Renovations and construction are scheduled to follow the 2016-17 season, with completion expected during the 2018-19 season. Plans for the Cougars’ home facility during the 2017-18 season have not been finalized.
The facility will feature a premium club area and a courtside club. The reconfigured bowl will move mid-court seating locations closer to game action with floor-level seating opposite the team benches for UH students. Renovations include a new audio system, sports lighting and video boards as well as new concession stands and expanded restrooms. The facility’s exterior also will be refreshed.
Prominent to the center’s exterior, the renovation will preserve the legacy of the Hofheinz family and its contributions to both UH and the city of Houston. UH will transform an area adjacent to the new facility into Hofheinz Plaza, where fans will be greeted by a bronze statue of former Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz. The University of Houston will request that city officials rename a portion of Holman Street in front of the arena after the Hofheinz family. In addition, Roy Hofheinz’s records will be permanently archived and publicly accessible as a special collection in the UH library and the Alumni Center will house an area describing the lives and public service of Roy and Irene Hofheinz.
“Half a century ago, Hofheinz Pavilion was built with a gift from our parents Roy and Irene Hofheinz. Their pride in the University and the city they loved, and their desire to help both achieve excellence, inspired their gift,” said Fred Hofheinz. “Roy Hofheinz, visionary and entrepreneur, brought fame and recognition to Houston and its University. It is fitting that the new Fertitta Center will bear the name of Tilman Fertitta, another Houston entrepreneur, who shares our father’s dream of greatness for the University. We are deeply honored by the inclusion of Hofheinz Plaza and the statue of our father in plans for the new Center.”
“This is a truly historic gift to the University of Houston and a demonstration of commitment that will elevate our athletics program for years to come,” said Eloise Dunn Stuhr, Vice President for University Advancement. “Private donations are simply a necessity to remain competitive in all aspects of higher education today. It is my expectation that the generosity of Chairman Fertitta and his family will inspire our alumni community to continue to invest in this dynamic institution, which we are all proud to call our own.”
Rendering courtesy of the University of Houston.
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