UH Arena Cleared For Renaming

The University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion will get a new name, thanks to the settlement of a lawsuit blocking any change and the pending receipt of a $20 million donation from the billionaire chair of the school’s board of regents.

Photo: Brian Reading

Tilman Fertitta, founder and CEO of the Landry’s chain, has reportedly promised to kick in that amount toward a $60 million arena project at the 8,500-capacity facility, according to the Houston Chronicle. The university announced in November that an anonymous donor pledged the gift, but multiple sources identified Fertitta as the benefactor. Complicating matters was a legal tiff with the family of late Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz, for whom the arena was originally named.

A settlement reached in June cleared the way for the renaming, and renovations will begin on the venue – although Fertitta has yet to sign an agreement or cut a check, according to the paper. But clearly UH expects it to come.

The donation would fill a shortfall created when the school’s $128 million football stadium ran over budget and was covered with money raised by a student fee to rebuild the basketball facility. The donation, and the donor, are not without controversy. Fertitta, as governing board chair, would have a conflict voting on an agreement to accept his own donation and rename the arena. He did vote in favor of the renovation project just prior to the university announcing the “anonymous” donation. Fertitta also reportedly was involved in negotiations with the Hofheinz family, which sued to require UH to retain the name.

Hofheinz gave the university $1.5 million to build the facility in 1969. The recent settlement includes construction of a bronze statue of Hofheinz near the arena and a request to the City of Houston to rename a street for Hofheinz.