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Toyota Center (map it)
1510 Polk St
Houston, TX 77002
Year Opened: 2003
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Located in the heart of downtown Houston, Toyota Center is an all-around great NBA experience and an arena any basketball or sports fan should add to their future travel plans. Constructed in 2003, Toyota Center has served as the home court for the NBA’s Houston Rockets and home ice for the AHL’s Houston Aeros.
New in 2012 is the installation of the largest arena video scoreboard in the nation. The atmosphere inside the Toyota Center is beyond entertaining whether it’s Clutch the Rockets Bear pulling a prank on an unsuspecting fan, the Rockets Power Dancers drawing all eyes on the court, the Red Rowdies raising the decibel level, or new young talent like James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. All things considered, Toyota Center is one of the top sports venues nationwide and worthy of a visit from sports fans of all kinds.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
You'll have little doubt you're in Texas as you make your way through the various concession options from Texas BBQ to Tex-Mex. Texas is known nation-wide as a BBQ state, and you can get your taste with a loaded BBQ baked potato, three meat plate, dry rub smoked brisket sandwich, apple wood smoked turkey sandwich, and a spicy marinated pork sandwich. Your Tex-Mex options are the ancho chicken burrito bowl, carne asada burrito bowl, Tinga nachos and ultimate nachos.
If you're looking for more traditional options, the Toyota Center offers several types of hot dogs including Texas and Chicago style, a "fork and knife" dog, and a "double dare you" dog that's a footlong topped with brisket and jalapeno creamy stew. My personal favorite and recommendation is the Korean Beef Taco.
Other food options range from Papa John's Pizza, to traditional options like nachos, peanuts, pretzels, and popcorn, to chicken tender baskets (including buffalo style), hamburgers, wok seared spicy citrus chicken, gluten free options, salads, ice cream and cotton candy, and Zatarain's jambalaya. Most of your main dish food options will be in the $9 range, which is pretty average around NBA venues.
Toyota Center features Pepsi products and soda will range between $5 and $6.25. Bottled water ($4.75), Red Bull ($4.50), and coffee ($3) are also options. Alcohol is certainly a featured concession item from domestic draft ($9) to bottle ($8). There are specialty alcohol locations from a bar-styled booth in the concourse by section 102 and a Jack Daniels bar/restaurant area.
Toyota Center is located in the heart of downtown Houston at the corner of Polk and La Branch streets. The stands are two tiered, like many arenas, holding a capacity of 18,043. The total area is 750,000 square feet. Toyota Center provides 2,900 club seats and 10 luxury suites.
The Rockets pay homage to their storied history and great players in both the concourses and inside the seating area. Retired jerseys hang from the rafters including Rocket greats Rudy Tomjanovich, Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Also hanging from the rafters are banners for Houston's back-to-back NBA Finals Championships (1994 and 1995), banners listing division and conference championships and also a banner honoring Hakeem Olajuwon's NBA record 3,830 blocked shots. Some of the same players are featured in the concourse with a massive painted mural on the wall.
Using the word "scoreboard" really doesn't quite explain the largest indoor arena video scoreboard in the country. The behemoth consists of two rectangular shaped video boards facing the east/west sides standing at 25' tall by 58' wide and two square screens facing the north/south sections at 25' by 25'. These new massive center hung video boards are equipped with full HD with 1080p display. This 600 percent increase in video board size is giving new meaning to the saying that "everything's bigger in Texas."
The Rocket's mascot, Clutch the Rockets Bear, is down-right funny and entertaining. Clutch earned the 1995 title of 5th most recognizable sports mascot by USA Today. He's highly interactive and constantly pranking those he comes in contact with. The Rockets Power Dancers (RPD) are entertaining for all the reasons Clutch isn't. The RPD are certainly a "can't miss" aspect of Rocket games, constantly engaging the crowd during breaks and noticeable throughout the entire game.
Houston is home to some of the most diverse and high quality food options in the nation from authentic Mexican food, Tex-Mex, Texas BBQ, to Vietnamese. Though there are enough excellent restaurants to fill an entire article, I'll keep my recommendations short: Ninfa's on Navigation (Tex-Mex), Les Givrals (Vietnamese), Alladin's Mediterranean Cuisine, House of Pies (breakfast/pie) and the Goode's BBQ Company.
If you still have time for a cup of coffee and quick breakfast in the morning, be sure to check out Inversion Coffee House on Montrose and the Anonymous Breakfast Burritos truck just outside.
Any trip to Houston is incomplete without a visit to the Saint Arnolds Brewery. For just a few bucks you'll get a brewery tour, drink tokens, a glass, and a few fun hours sampling brews and mingling with locals. A couple of great nightlife stops are the Flying Saucer downtown and Little Woodrow's in midtown. It's not likely that many sports fans out there also enjoy the fine arts but Houston's museum/art district is worth a visit, especially with the free admission at Menil Collection.
In Section 114 you'll find the Red Rowdies, arguably the craziest fan group in professional sports. There's such a demand for being a part of the Red Rowdies that the Rockets have to actually host try-outs to sit in the section.
Houston Rockets fans know great basketball having experienced back-to-back NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995. The combination of Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon (HOF 2008), Clyde Drexler (HOF 2004), Sam Cassel, Robert Horry, and Kenny Smith, and Mario Elie have raised the bar high when it comes to great basketball play in the minds of Red Nation.
Other great players who called Houston home and are also NBA Hall of Famers include Rick Barry, Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen and Ralph Sampson. A potential addition to that list just may be Yao Ming, who recently retired in 2011.
Red Nation is forever hopeful that the magic of the '94 and '95 seasons will soon return to their beloved Rockets and they know how to make an arena a home-court advantage.
If you're travelling to Houston for the game, you shouldn't have much of a problem getting into town. You can fly either into George Bush Intercontinental or Hobby. I'd recommend Hobby because it's much closer to downtown and you'll likely pick up a cheap flight from Southwest since they have a hub there.
Houston is in the process of expanding its Metro Rail system, but until the additional lines are added (expected completion in 2014), a rental car is the best way to get around. As for where to stay, I recommend booking a hotel in the downtown area and the Hilton of Americas (if it's in your price range) is a great option. From there you could make the walk to the game, but if you choose to park there will likely be plenty of parking available in the garage connected to the arena for around $15.
As you approach the arena from the parking garage, you'll need to cross the street and head to one of the entrances. There are several gates to enter through and all will be pretty painless. Lines at the ticket windows are relatively short and staff are friendly. You'll have no issues making your way through the spacious concourse or up and down the accommodating aisles. The restrooms are spacious, clean, brand new, and located in multiple areas of the concourse. The arena is handicap accessible.
According to the January 2012 Team Marketing Report, the average league ticket price was approximately $48 with the Rockets coming in under the average at $41. The overall fan cost index was $271.46, also under the league average and the 12th best value in the NBA. With the addition of young stars like James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik in the 2012-13 season, the value has certainly increased. However, in the NBA, value is strongly tied to star power and though the Rockets have some potential to develop, they are still missing a major superstar to make the investment strong in comparison to other teams in the NBA.
New young stars like James Harden, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin have brought some additional excitement to Toyota Center. Many around the league believe the Rockets are one big star away from a championship caliber team.
You can't beat the options offered to you around the stadium since you're smack-dab in the middle of downtown Houston. There's plenty of great spots to head to before and after the game.
Red Nation really is something special. Through good times and bad, Rockets fans are some of the most interactive and loyal in the nation. The Red Rowdies are regarded across the NBA as one of the most boisterous fan clubs in the league.
The Rockets and Toyota Center do an amazing job recognizing and honoring past accolades and great players. The opportunity to explore downtown Houston is another plus. And how can we forget the largest arena video scoreboard in America?
So is it worth it? It's definitely a bucket-list item. From concessions to tickets, the cash needed for a Rockets game is less than the average cost across the NBA. Add in a great mascot and interactive dance team and your value continues to add up. It's a great experience, a great value and an event you'll likely not soon forget.
The first thing I think of when I go to the Toyota Center, the home of the NBA's Houston Rockets, is entertainment.
Sure, I'm both an NBA as well as a Rockets fan, and I love watching sports, especially live. But the first thing that jumps out at me at the Toyota Center is entertainment. The organization does an incredible job of making games fun for the fans.
There are mascots and cheerleaders throwing t-shirts into the stands at nearly every time out. There are exciting halftime shows beyond just seeing acrobats balancing plates on their noses.
At the game I attended recently, the Rockets were celebrating the "birthday" of their mascot, Clutch. The team brought in mascots from around the league, including the mascots from Denver, Indiana and Phoenix. The result was a t-shirt throwing, crowd pleasing extravaganza.
The next thing that comes to mind is that there are no bad seats in Toyota Center. I was lucky enough to have great seats for the game I attended, but in all honesty, there are no bad seats in the house. I've sat in the upper deck, in the corners and courtside.
All seats have good sight lines and are spacious. There are cup holders at nearly every seat. The legroom is ample. In short, the Toyota Center makes attending games much more enjoyable from a physical standpoint.
Located smack dab in the middle of downtown Houston you will find the beautiful Toyota Center, the home of the Houston Rockets. Officially opened in late 2003, the Rockets have definitely made the Toyota Center a must see for any NBA or sports fan. With plenty of great choices for food and absolutely amazing entertainment, the Toyota Center is a hard place to beat when it comes to seeing great basketball.
Mostly in agreement with your review. The fans are probably the best in the NBA (I'll have to check out OKC next year).
The Houston neighborhood is rather lame, especially when you compare to San Antonio or Dallas. I felt as if I could hear a pin drop in downtown due to the lack of excitement.
The mascot, chubby bear, lacks the athleticism of a great mascot you saw in Chicago or the coyote in San Antonio.
As for the extras - I love the upper concourse with the big curtain and games. I'd also mention the park just outside the Toyota Center that has that great outdoor basketball court.
Beautiful venue, so much to see and do, and that scoreboard is unbelievable. Fans show up late and weren't into the game until the Rockets made a late comeback. Park on the street nearby if you get there around 5:30 for a 7pm game, as meters are not enforced after 6. Plenty of food choices but a little expensive. Easy to get around the spacious concourses. Banners for the 1974 and 1975 Avco Cup winners a testament to the preservation of history here. See the Toyota Center if you haven't yet.
1510 Texas Ave
Houston, TX 77002
2704 Navigation Blvd
Houston, TX 77003
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