By Sarah F. Hill
Roy M. Hofheinz met his soon-to-be wife at the University of Houston in 1929. Years later, during a board meeting, University of Houston President Philip G. Hoffman made the recommendation that the new field house complex on campus be named “Hofheinz Pavilion,” in honor of Judge Roy M. Hofheinz and his deceased wife, Irene.
Judge Hofheinz was an illustrious player in the worlds of politics and of sports. At the time of Hofheinz Pavilion’s opening, he had served as the mayor of the City of Houston from 1953-1955, President of the Houston Sports Association, part owner of the Houston Colt .45s (which later became known as the Houston Astros) and the main lease holder for the Astrodome.
Hofheinz and his charitable foundation contributed $1.5 million toward the cost of the facility. The 10,060 seat arena was huge by any then-current measure, and boasted even more standing room areas. The first Men’s Basketball game ever played there was a win for the Cougars over Louisiana-Lafayette in 1969. Just one year later came an attendance record when Tom Jones played the arena to 14,645 — no doubt screaming — fans.
Hofheinz Pavilion was the home for Men’s and Women’s Basketball at UH for nearly half a century and saw two NCAA Tournament Midwest Regionals, one in 1971 and one in 1983. Hofheinz was the home of the Cougars during the exciting Phi Slama Jama years — and the legendary Guy V. Lewis led the team to victory time and again during that golden era. Hakeem Olajuwon (FS ’84) and his teammates ran, jumped and swished their way into national acclaim during the early 1980s.
Commencements and musical acts, such as James Taylor and Alice Cooper in the 1970s and Prince in 2004, have graced the arena over the years. While it will be difficult to replace the facility that housed so many great moments for UH, it will be exciting to move on to the next phase of basketball prominence with the new Fertitta Center. Graced with a $20 million naming gift from businessman, Tilman Fertitta (’78), the Fertitta Center will architecturally complement the Guy V. Lewis Development Facility. The groundbreaking ceremony for the facility was March 5, 2017. The Fertitta Center will keep pace with conference and regional competitors and aid in the recruitment of elite prospects to UH Basketball.
A bronze statue of Judge Roy Hofheinz greeting fans will herald the new age of athletic prowess: a space featuring fan experience enhancements such as expanded concession stands, a state-of-the-art audio system and LED video boards. The facility will also feature premium club areas and an improved student section that will place students close to the court and provide a true home court advantage.
Going forward, UH’s goal is, as always, to build a premier collegiate program; one that reclaims Houston’s rightful place among the hardcourt elite. A refreshed facility will bring the Cougars closer to their fan base, elevate the athletics experience on campus and add considerably to the momentum of Men and Women’s Basketball at UH.
“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 has 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.”
Do you have a favorite memory from a basketball game, concert or other event at Hofheinz? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!