Toyota, Rockets agree on arena's naming rights

Updated: July 26, 2003, 3:29 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets, with Yao Ming already in the lineup, added more international flavor Thursday by signing a long term naming rights deal to call their new $200 million downtown arena Toyota Center.

Terms of the deal were not announced.

"It made sense to the Rockets to find a partner that would benefit from the international exposure that the Rockets are receiving,'' Rockets president and chief executive officer George Postolos said. "Toyota seems to be the perfect fit because of it's international presence.''

The new arena, scheduled for completion in September, will be host to the Rockets, the WNBA's Houston Comets and the Minnesota Wild's minor-league hockey affiliate, the Houston Aeros.

Deborah Whal Meyer, corporate marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., said Toyota also looked at the international benefits of a partnership with the Rockets, who made Yao Ming the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft last season.

"As a leader in the worldwide market, Toyota will also be able to enhance its brand awareness in Asia through the international exposure offered by the Houston Rockets," Meyer said.

Yao, an immediate draw in his rookie season, gave the Rockets wider exposure.

"Adding Yao to the Rockets has given us a terrific global presence," Postolos said. "We had 30 games broadcast in China last year and had an extremely large audience. There's every indication that trend will continue.

"You can't overstate the global significance to the extent Yao has helped us to become a global franchise."

The downtown arena will replace the Compaq Center, the NBA's second-oldest arena, which didn't have the luxury boxes and other moneymaking amenities needed to allow the franchise to remain financially competitive.

The Compaq Center was built in 1976.

The new arena boasts 18,500 new seats, some of which already have been installed in the second deck. The building increases seating capacity by 2,250 and capacity in the lower bowl by 2,800.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press