Toyota Center – Houston Rockets
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Toyota Center 1510 Polk St Houston, TX 77002
Year Opened: 2003
The Launch Pad
The Houston Rockets have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA over the last 10 years. They play in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference. Over the years, they have won two NBA Championships, four Western Conference Championships and seven Southwest Division titles. Much of this success can be attributed to the presence of eight time All Star James Harden and the more recent addition of eight time All Star Russell Westbrook.
The launch pad for this brand of Rockets is the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. It opened in 2003 and is the third home for the team since it relocated to Houston from San Diego in 1971. The Toyota Center has a basketball capacity of 18,300 and it features one of the largest lower levels of any arena in the NBA. This is made possible by having the court located 32 feet below street level. It has one of the biggest video boards in the league as well, as each of the HD screens measure 25’ high and 58’ wide. The arena features 112 suites on both its club and court levels. The Toyota Center was also built to be energy efficient, as it was the first building in Texas to earn the Silver LEED Certification.
Food & Beverage 3
The Toyota Center features your typical arena food, as well as some Tex-Mex specialties. Amongst the vendors are Bills Bar and Burgers (try the South of the Burger), Space City Dogs, the Saltgrass Steakhouse, Cadillacs, Build a Salad, HOU BBQ and Tostitos Nachos. For a fun place to eat and watch the game, check out the Corona Beach House Bar and Patio at the north end of the lower concourse or the ABK Beer Garden on the 400 level of the arena. Make sure you try a Karbach beer, it’s a hometown brew.
The Toyota Center creates a great atmosphere even before you enter the building. Before weekend contests, the arena hosts Bud Light Liftoff parties on the plaza. This includes musical entertainment, food and beverage booths, interactive games, face painting and autograph sessions with former Rocket players.
Once inside the facility, you will see that it offers Texas-sized amenities. There are three main entrances, each of which deliver you into a spacious lobby. The concourses are wide and easy to navigate. As you enter the seating bowl, you will be surprised at how tall it is. This is due to the court being so much lower than street level. The seats are wider than you would find at some of the newer arenas and the leg room is also more spacious.
As you look upward, you will notice the banners saluting each of the Rockets NBA Championships, as well as their conference and divisional championships. At the other end of the rafters, banners saluting the six Rockets who have had their numbers retired (Rudy Tomjanovich, Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone Calvin Murphy,Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon) are hung. The video board keeps fans updated with replays and stats throughout the game.
Even if you have seats on the lower level, it is worth it to venture up to the northern end of the arena at the 400 level. This will bring you to the Legend Lockers. They display the lockers used by the various Rockets who have had their numbers retired. Inside of the lockers are paraphernalia donated by each of these players (shoes, jerseys, info on records that they hold, etc.). In the northern end zone of the 400 level is the Sky Court. This is a great area for the kids as well as the whole family. It features interactive games and displays, a statue of Clutch and a kid sized version of the Rockets own court. If you go before the games, there are photo ops with the mascots and the Rockets cheer squad. This trip upstairs will also provide you with a great overview of the playing court and seating bowl.
The Toyota Center is in the center of the action in downtown Houston. There is so much to do that a good place to start is at the Houston Visitors Center located two blocks from the arena in the George Brown Convention Center. Pick up a map to get your bearings, most of Houston’s main attractions can be easily reached by walking (we suggest using the tunnel system that snakes through the downtown area… as it allows you to miss the heat and humidity the town often experiences). Two sports facilities are less than a ten minute walk from the Toyota Center are Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, and BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo of the MLS and the Houston Dash of the NWSL.
Just a few blocks from the Toyota Center is Discovery Park. It offers a wide variety of activities, including fountains, walking trails, restaurants, shops, and most important…plenty of shade from the hot Texas sun. Even though it is not located downtown, no trip to Houston would be complete without a trip to the Houston Space Center. It is a short drive from the downtown area.
The Rockets fill the Toyota Center on a regular basis. Part of this is due to the awe-inspiring play by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but it is also due the great support all the Houston area professional teams enjoy. Houstonians simply love sports. Among the most rabid group at the basketball games are the Red Rowdies, who are seated in section 114. If you don’t like loud fans… sit far away from this section. The Red Rowdies march through both levels of the Toyota Center prior to each game, playing drums, kazoos and other instruments. Once at the seats, they are in major cheer mode.
The Rockets have a broad range of entertainment to keep the fans enthused during lulls in the action. They are all led by Clutch the Bear, a member of the Mascot Hall of Fame and a two-time Mascot of the Year for the NBA. The entertainment team also includes the Clutch City dance team, the Little Dipper Dance team (children’s dance squad), the Space City Seniors and the Anti-Gravity Dunkers (acrobatic dunk team). There is never a dull moment at a Rockets game.
The Toyota Center is easily accessed by vehicle or public transportation. It is also within walking distance of several hotels, and the George R Brown Convention Center is also located nearby. Please remember that Houston has Texas-sized traffic, so allow plenty of time to get to the game.
Directions: From I-10 West: Get off at US Hwy 59 South (Downtown). Exit Hwy 59 at Hamilton Street and go South on Hamilton to Congress Street. Take Congress Street west to La Branch Street. Go south on La Branch and park in any surface lots or the George Brown Convention Center Parking Deck.
From I-45 South: Exit at McKinney Street and head east. Turn into surface lots or continue on McKinney to Avenida de las Americas for the Convention Center Parking Deck.
Parking in the Toyota Center Garage is reserved for season ticket holders and suite owners only. There are more than 10,000 parking spaces available within a six-block radius of the arena. The arena is also adjacent to the city’s Metro public transportation system rail line. Both the Green and Purple lines service the Bell Street Station near the arena.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices can vary depending on the opponent and where you want to sit in the arena. For most games you are looking at the $35 range for the upper level and $45 for a lower level seat.
Parking in the area surrounding the Toyota Center averages $5 – $30 depending on how close the lot is to the arena. The Metro rail system charges $1.25 for a one-way ride, but we suggest you purchase the $3 Day Pass, which gives you unlimited rides throughout downtown Houston over a 24-hour period.
The Toyota Center has hosted the NBA All Star Game twice (2006, 2013). Among the stars who have performed at the arena are Prince, Madonna, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Garth Brooks, Tricia Yearwood and the Barenaked Ladies. It has also hosted numerous UFC events.
The Rockets work very closely with KultureCity, a local nonprofit, to ensure that all their guests with special needs have an enjoyable time. This includes an introductory story about the arena experience that is shown to the group before they even reach the arena so they will know what to expect as well as provisions for a quiet room or noise blocking headphones for persons with sensory issues.
The Rockets have one of the highest scoring averages in the NBA. Houston scores high on the charts as a great tourist city. We heartily recommend a visit to the Rocket’s City…. you’ll have a blast (off).