Pierpont hired to boost Rockets' new arena

HOUSTON: The Houston Rockets have hired hometown agency Pierpont Communications to help open the last in the city's trio of new sports facilities.

HOUSTON: The Houston Rockets have hired hometown agency Pierpont Communications to help open the last in the city's trio of new sports facilities.

The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority (HCHSA) broke ground on the Rockets' new arena in July 2001, and construction should be complete early this fall.

The Rockets, which will lease the facility, hired Pierpont to help publicize construction milestones and the grand opening. The team will soon begin selling and renewing season tickets, and the process of assigning seats in a new facility to long-time boosters can be delicate, noted marketing VP Tim McDougall.

Pierpont will stress the new arena's high-quality amenities, such as wider seats, better food service, and a high-resolution scoreboard, noted Pierpont SVP Ben Wheatley. The agency will also likely help announce the arena's moniker once naming-rights negotiations wrap up.

The few national and regional agencies invited to bid on the six-figure project had Texas offices, as well as experience opening sports facilities.

Pierpont's work for construction projects included opening an entertainment venue near Dallas. Local connections also gave the firm an edge, McDougall said. "They were very passionate about basketball and the Rockets, and that showed when they talked to us," he added.

To illustrate their media contacts, the Pierpont team presented the Rockets with a basketball signed by local reporters, said agency president Phil Morabito.

"This is a big win because we are so committed to the city of Houston, and it gives us an opportunity to highlight one of its important treasures," Morabito said.

The new stadium is a key element not only of Houston's downtown revitalization, but of the city's effort to upgrade its major-league sports facilities.

The HCHSA formed in 1997 after the Houston Oilers left town for greener Astroturf, eventually becoming the Tennessee Titans, explained Oliver Luck, the organization's executive director. The 1960s-vintage Astrodome and the Rockets' Compaq Center were among the country's oldest major-league venues.

Voters first approved dedicating lodging and car-rental taxes to build what is now Minute Maid Park downtown (where baseball's Astros play) and Reliant Stadium (home to the NFL's expansion franchise the Houston Texans, as well as the Houston Rodeo). The first bond-issue election to fund the Rockets' $202 million facility failed, but it passed on a second try in November 2000.

The Women's National Basketball Association's Houston Comets will also play in the new arena, as will the American Hockey League's Aeros.

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