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Monday, November 19, 2018

Men's Basketball

Hofheinz no more: Billionaire, Board of Regents chair will be basketball arena namesake


Board of Regents Chairman Tillman Fretitta at Thursday's Board of Regents meeting. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Billionaire, Houstonian entrepreneur and Board of Regents chairman Tilman Fertitta donated $20 million to the reconstruction of UH’s basketball arena. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Get ready for the Fertitta Center.

Once Hofheinz Pavilion is torn down, its replacement will be named after UH athletic’s most generous donor to date. During a press conference Thursday at the Hilton at the University of Houston, Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek announced billionaire and Board of Regents chairman Tilman Fertitta donated the key $20 million catalyst for UH’s new basketball arena.

“I just can’t tell you enough how exciting it is to help take our basketball team to the next level,” Fertitta said. “People are going to come in and say, gosh, what a great facility. This is going to be a happening place on our campus again. I can remember coming to every concert — (Hofheinz Pavilion) is where it was. In the next few years, you’ll start seeing 70, 80 events each year in this new facility.”

Fertitta Center will be completed and ready for home basketball games in early fall 2018, and the basketball team hopes to play the Arkansas Razorbacks in the new center, Yurachek said. Construction will start by mid-March 2017. Yurachek did not specify where the Cougars will play for the 2017-18 season.

“This creates an unbelievable competitive advantage,” men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “As soon as a young man either drives onto our campus or we pick them up from the airport, and we bring them on campus, the first thing we show him is the arena he’s going to play in. With the Fertitta Center, we can’t wait. As a matter of fact, we may be dragging them in, opening their door for them before the car stops to put them in (Fertitta Center) as quickly as we can.”

UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, Yurachek and Fertitta spent much of the press conference thanking the late Judge Roy Hofheinz, former mayor of the city of Houston and the Hofheinz Pavilion’s namesake. In May, the Hofheinz family filed a legal motion to force UH to keep Hofheinz’ name on any new facilities. The parties settled with an agreement to honor Hofheinz’ memory in other ways, including a statue of him outside Fertitta Center.

During the press conference, UH alumnus and former mayor of Houston Fred Hofheinz said his father would have approved of the project, calling it “necessary to bring the University to the next level.”

“We think it’s significant that the name of one great Houston entrepreneurs, Roy Hofheinz, is being replaced by the name of another great Houston entrepreneur, Tilman Feritta,” Hofheinz said. “I think it’s important that the name of this building continues to be a Houstonian. So many naming rights go to corporations and institutions that are cold and impersonal.”

The Board of Regents first approved the new Basketball Arena Renovation Project with the inclusion of the then-anonymous $20 million donation in November 2015. Fertitta voted on the measure to approve the project.

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