Tilman Fertitta Donates $20 Million To Renovate UH Basketball Arena

The restaurant and gaming magnate’s gift covers a third of the cost of refurbishing the 47-year-old Hofheinz Pavilion. The structure will be renamed the Fertitta Center when it reopens.

Fertitta Center
Graphic rendering of Fertitta Center and Hofheinz Plaza. Work on both is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2018-2019 basketball season.

Tilman Fertitta has given the University of Houston $20 million to renovate the school's basketball arena. The gift from the restaurant and gaming magnate is the largest donation in the history of UH Athletics. It provides a third of the cost for renovating the arena, currently known as Hofheinz Pavilion.

"Our board of regents will vote later today to approve the name, ‘the Fertitta Center,' when the $60 million renovation is complete and the venue reopens for the 2018-2019 basketball season," says Hunter Yurachek, vice president for athletics, who announced the gift at a press conference on the UH main campus. Fertitta himself currently chairs the board of regents.

The gift has not been without controversy. When the name change was proposed, it created a legal dispute with the family of the late Harris County Judge, Roy Hofheinz. Family members insisted the $1.5 million paid to the university in 1969 conferred naming rights in perpetuity.

The dispute was settled when the school agreed to ask the city to rename a street next to the arena in Hofheinz's honor. It will also build a plaza outside the arena that will bear his name.

Former Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz, the judge's son, says the family is happy with the arrangement. "And we think it's real significant that the name of one great Houston entrepreneur, Roy Hofheinz, is going to be replaced by another great Houston entrepreneur, Tilman Fertitta," he says. "I think it's important to Houston that the name on this building continues to be a Houstonian, an individual, when so many of the naming rights around this country go to corporations and institutions that are cold and impersonal."

Judge Hofheinz made his fortune in radio and television. He was also the driving force behind the construction of the Astrodome and owner of the Houston Astros.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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