From a pregame light show on the court to hundreds of students sitting courtside, the Fertitta Center has electrified the men’s basketball game day experience at UH.
Hofheinz Pavilion had been the home to UH basketball since 1969, but attendance at the arena became increasingly low ever since the Phi Slama Jama era; in large part because the Cougars had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1984.
After the hiring of head coach Kelvin Sampson in 2014, UH men’s basketball program began to rise again, which signified it was time for the Cougars to get a new home to enhance the game day experience.
After almost 50 years playing at Hofheinz Pavilion, UH basketball made Fertitta Center its new home in December 2018, and the change in atmosphere was immediately evident with fans raving about the electricity in the building.
“(I) got to go to the LSU game,” said Steven Hiller, a longtime UH basketball supporter. “It was the most intense basketball game I had ever been to and the crowd blew your eardrums off. After years of going to Coog hoops games, this was what I always dreamed we would be.”
One unique aspect to game day at the Fertitta Center is the pregame festivities. Prior to the Cougars exiting the locker room and taking the court, all the lights in the arena go out and the court turns into a giant screen, with team highlights and cool graphics projected onto it.
“The pregame show on the court is really impressive as it sets the tone for the start of the game and gets the fans into the experience,” said Johnny Fusilier, a UH alumnus who graduated in 2008.
There is also an interactive part of the pregame during Houston’s intro video and the announcement of the starting lineup.
When the team intro video begins, the lights once again go out and fans are able to open an app that synchronizes their phone’s flashlight to the music which turns Fertitta Center into a giant light show.
“It creates a sense of unity and the flashlights get everyone hyped,” said junior supply chain management major Will Partridge.
Another important part of game day is the student section.
While all universities have student areas, both men’s and women’s basketball student sections are unique in that it is courtside. Being so close to all the action makes the student experience unlike any other sporting event and elevates the energy in the student section to another level.
“I love being in the student section because you are in the middle of all the action,” sophomore accounting major Cody Doyle said.
Jonathan Loredo, an incoming freshman, has been going to UH basketball games since he was 10 years old, and he is looking forward to getting to experience games from the student section in 2020.
“Seeing the amount of support the students give the team is incredible,” Loredo said. “I’m looking forward to getting the student experience and being right there with the players.”
With all the changes made, attending a UH basketball game has become a part of the bucket list item for all Cougars.
“The quality basketball, the electric environment and the school spirit make every seat in the Fertitta Center a great place to experience a basketball game,” Fusilier said.