The Compaq Center
The 17,000-seat Compaq Center arena annually serves as host to two million patrons who attend an average of 190 sports and entertainment events. Sited as one of the most successful sports and entertainment arenas in the country, LMI is under contract to manage and operate this fine facility located in the fourth largest market in the country. The Compaq Center is one of the few arenas in the country that serves as home to five professional sports franchises. The Compaq Center regularly hosts events such as Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, Sesame Street Live, Harlem Globetrotters, live professional boxing and wrestling, and concerts by today's leading entertainers. In addition, The Compaq Center has hosted numerous NBA Finals, the NBA All-Star Weekend, and the 1996 IHL All-Star Game. The Compaq Center is located in Greenway Plaza, a $1 billion mixed-use commercial, residential and entertainment development and is linked by covered walkways to underground parking and one of Houston's finest hotels. The arena features:
- 17,000 seats
- 20 luxury suites
- State-of-the-art food court with local and branded foods
Directions to the Compaq Center
(From Hobby Airport) Take 45 North (also known as the Gulf Freeway) to 59 South (also known as the Southwest Freeway) to Edloe/Wesleyan Exit. Stay on feeder road. The Compaq Center is on the right.
(From Intercontinental Airport) Take 59 South (also known as the Southwest Freeway) to Edloe/Wesleyan Exit. Stay on Feeder Road. The Compaq Center is on the right.
The Will Call window is located on the Edloe Street side of the Compaq Center.
March 10, 2004, Wednesday Late Edition - Final
New York Times
A Sports Arena Gets Religion
By TERRY PRISTIN; Jeff Yip contributed reporting for this article.
HOUSTON - Lakewood Church in this sprawling city's northeast section is so busy that Sunday morning services in the 7,800-seat sanctuary take place in two shifts, traffic backs up on the nearest Interstate 610 exit and police officers are needed to direct the lines of cars into the jammed parking lot.
At one recent service, the seats were filled with worshippers pumping their arms and singing along with an energetic choirmaster whose image was projected on giant television screens. People cheered as the minister, Joel Osteen, announced that construction crews had begun work on a new home for the church and that as much as $45 million in donations had been pledged to help pay for it.
For several years, Lakewood Church has felt squeezed in its current home. As a multiracial church that draws more than 25,000 people on weekends, Lakewood is the largest of the 30 churches in the nation with more than 8,000 members, said John N. Vaughn, the owner of Church Growth Today, a research and consulting company.
Recently, the church signed a long-term lease with the city to occupy the Compaq Center, a 29-year-old former basketball arena on the opposite end of town. The church is spending $75 million to renovate the arena and add a five-story building on its eastern side with more than 200,000 square feet of classrooms and television production offices and will pay $11.8 million in rent in advance for the first 30 years.
The Irvine Team, a Houston-based company that focuses on design and construction strategy, is overseeing the redevelopment.
Much of the money is being spent on features that will enhance the visual effect of the services, which are seen on nearly three dozen television channels around the country, said Duncan Dodds, the executive director of Lakewood Church.
''We want to appeal to all your senses,'' said Mr. Dodds, a former marketing and advertising executive. He said the church was focusing on ''the things that are kind of a wow, so that when you walk in, it will take your breath away.''
In making a play for the Compaq Center, Lakewood Church faced competition from the Crescent Real Estate Equities Company, a publicly traded company based in Fort Worth and the owner of Greenway Plaza, the five-million-square-foot high-end office complex that surrounds the arena.
Crescent, which hoped to tear down the arena and eventually put up a new office building, sued the city after the proposal from Lakewood Church was accepted, saying that the lease would violate deed restrictions on the arena. The suit was settled last year, after the city agreed to buy 5.5 acres of space in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center from Crescent for $33 million.
Dawn Ullrich, director of the city's Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department, said that the city's decision to lease the Compaq Center to Lakewood Church was ''driven by economics'' because the church was willing to pay rent that equaled the appraised value of the arena. ''Because Lakewood's offer was so good,'' she said, ''it was very appealing from an economic point of view.''
Lakewood Church will not be the first religious institution to hold services in a place where sports fans used to gather, but it will apparently be the first to physically transform an arena into a church. In 2001, the Faithful Central Bible Church bought the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where the Lakers played before the Staples Center opened. The church holds services there and also rents out the arena for pop music concerts.
In recent years, more than 30 arenas have been built across the country as professional sports teams have demanded improved sightlines and up-to-date amenities -- luxury sky boxes, club seating, wider concourses and more bathrooms. The question of what to do with the old arenas has bedeviled public officials. Often, the structures themselves are far from decrepit and are still burdened with millions of dollars of debt but are no longer wanted.
Last week, after years of trying to find other uses for the Miami Arena, where the Heat played basketball from 1988 to 2000, the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority took the first steps toward selling it to the owner of a chain of parking garages.
With the FedEx Forum about to open, Memphis officials are seeking ways to preserve the Pyramid, a prominent part of the city's skyline since it opened in 1991. Dallas has yet to decide the fate of Reunion Arena, built in 1980. And in Houston, where the Sam Houston Coliseum was torn down in 1998, Harris County officials may allow the Astrodome, once labeled the ''eighth wonder of the world,'' to be turned into an attraction with a space theme.
Some secondary arenas limp along with college sports or animal or truck shows but most wind up under a wrecking ball, like USAirways Arena in Landover, Md., which is the site of a shopping center.
Bill Rhoda, a principal in the Dallas office of Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, a consulting company, describes the Lakewood Church project as ''one of the most creative alternate uses'' for an unwanted arena. ''The majority are torn down,'' he said. ''They are usually single-purpose structures, built with a focus on entertainment events and fairly expensive to renovate.''
For the Compaq Center renovation, the most costly elements involve acoustics and lighting, said Dennis Irvine, the president of the Irvine Team, the company that is overseeing work by more than 20 specialty consultants. The acoustics might have been adequate for rock concerts but needed to be overhauled so that sermons could be heard clearly, he said. A sound separation barrier will be installed below the seats to prevent extraneous noises from interfering with the television broadcasts. Another costly addition will be a plant for heating and air-conditioning, which were previously supplied by the Greenway Plaza office complex.
In keeping with the church's desire for eye-catching effects, a stage is being created with a circular staircase to accommodate a 250-member choir that will be flanked by waterfalls. The orchestra pit will move up and down. Columns and lighting will be added to the pink concrete exterior.
The basketball court is being raised to provide raked seating, much like a movie theater, so that even with the stage, the church will hold 16,000 people, the same number as the arena. As a cost-saving measure, however, many of the existing green seats -- which are currently covered in plastic -- will not be replaced.
Even though construction is already under way, the plans are being continually refined to keep costs within the budget, said Lorrie Foreman, the project manager for Irvine. Recently, for example, she learned that the rocks placed under the waterfalls would cost $40,000 more than the budget allowed. ''We have to eliminate some of the rocks,'' she said.
Ms. Foreman said the design team hoped to be able to cut costs enough to provide the money for a $500,000 fountain.
Mr. Irvine said he did not expect to create a niche business out of retrofitting old sports arenas because there are only so many really big churches, but he said that Houston and the church were setting a good example. ''Houston has been a 'tear it down, build it new' kind of city for so long,'' he said. ''What I love is that Houston is the first one I know doing this.'' Mr. Osteen, the minister, said that had Lakewood built a new church, it probably would not have been in as prime a location as the Compaq Center, which is right off Highway 59, a major artery. ''The building is in fine shape for what we need it for,'' Mr. Osteen said. ''We can preserve a landmark, and give it the money to bring it up to date.''
With the lawsuit behind him, John C. Goff, Crescent's chief executive, said the church had begun to help attract new restaurant and retail tenants to Greenway Plaza. In December, Tony's, a 39-year-old restaurant near the Galleria shopping center known for attracting celebrities, announced that it would move to a 10,000-square-foot space near the Compaq Center. Referring to the church, Mr. Goff said, ''We feel they are going to be great neighbors.''