Lights Now Out at Hofheinz Pavilion

Rainy Days and Goodbyes Go Together
First Game, UH 89 – SW Louisiana 72.
Last Game: UH 73 – E. Carolina 51.

 

On Sunday, March 5, 2016, at 3:00 PM, or thereabouts, the last basketball in history at Hofheinz Pavilion on the UH campus finally got started, Inside from the rain, a fairly good, but far from full house crowd showed to turn the clock and the pages of history on another Houston sports edifice for the last time – even if they are only doing a $20 million dollare renovation on a $2 million dollar basketball pavilion, circa, 1969. If they do their job right, we shall all, hopefully, not even recognize where we are when the place re-opens in a couple of seasons under a new name and a fresh face.

It was a rainy day for the game between our Houston Cougars and the East Carolina Pirates, but we didn’t see any people shedding tears over the loss of the old place. And, as one who had not even been to see a basketball game on campus in 25 years – since my own son was kid enough to want to go – it was easy and quick to see why – sometimes – out with the old – and in with the new – is the only song in town.

Unlike the architecturally significant Astrodome structure, Hofheinz Pavilion has about as much historic or sentimental value as an abandoned and rusty strip center in Sugar Land – still standing, but leaning badly – somewhere near all the new growth of class, good taste, and power in that far southern moon in orbit today around Planet Houston. Hofheinz today is awful, especially if you are a senior with some serious mobility problems.

The descending slippery-from-the-rain court-side aisles have no support bars to grasp. Then, once, or if, you get to your assigned seat, everyone in the aisle has to stand to let you pass them. The same problem exists in reverse for bathroom runs, food, or going home moves prior to game’s rend.

Caution: Make sure you don’t follow my lead by forgetting your cane at home – and be sure that you only bring your good bladder with you. One that peaks too quickly to capacity – and/or one that leaks too fast in slow, slippery walking company – are both probably reasons contributing to the poor attendance by older fans with physical disability limitations at Hofheinz. – “It just ain’t worth it, as things are, friends, even if the team IS winning. The new place has got be a lot smarter and more comfort-conscious than the old place came to be.

But all of Hofheinz’s issue aren’t time-evolutionary. – The place didn’t suffer an amputation of its now missing hand rails. They simply weren’t ever there. – Just another cost-saving decision that someone had to make back in 1969, when the place was going up on a peanut butter and jelly budget.

Don’t get me completely wrong. I’m not here to smack my UH for what was not done in 1969. I didn’t need handrails in 1969 either, any more than the students or younger alums need them now. All I’m saying is “Go Coogs! Let’s get it completely right this time.”

Not just by the way, but lasting 48 years (1969-2017) as an active arena says a lot for the old place itself. And historically, Hofheinz Pavilion was important. – It was the venue made possible by Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney in the UH 71-69 “Game of the Century” win over UCLA at the Astrodome on January 20, 1968. It was the place that served as the first temporary home of the NBA Houston Rockets once they moved here from San Diego in 1971. And it was a place that featured world class entertainment performances by people like Elton John and so many others that the full list from the Wikipedia story on Hofheinz Pavilion is enough to make all heads swim.

Check out the Wikipedia history on Hofheinz Pavilion. It does the old place proud.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hofheinz_Pavilion

My favorite Hofheinz shows were by rock and roll icon Chuck Berry – and by the Broadway touring company that presented “Jesus Christ, Superstar”.

My favorite personal memory is that Hofheinz Pavilion will always be the place I received my doctoral degree on June 7 1975 from former Governor Allan Shivers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. It’s hard to believe that UH and UT once had a working relationship between them possible, but stranger things happen. Of course, 1975 was back in my own academic hippie looking era. I will always believe that Gov. Shivers gave me a certain look and back-tug on my degree – before releasing resistance with a smile and (I guess) a congratulatory handshake.

____________________

Big E- Elvin Hayes

Elvin Hayes and Bill McCurdy ~ An Earlier Moment in Time

 

Last Dance.

The evening ended as it needed to conclude. The Cougars beat the Pirates, 71-53, and in touching call-up at game’s end, some of great names in Cougar basketball history were called upon to take the floor for one last hurrah from their grateful fans.

The last word for sure was pure eloquence. The great Elvin Hays took the last shot at a basket on the Guy V. Lewis Court  and – of course – it was nothing but net.

____________________

A Joke from that UT@Hofheinz Graduation Night.

As we were filing out from our Hofheinz Pavilion UT post-graduation in 1975, someone in the audience apparently collapsed, inspiring a standby witness to shout loudly – so that most of us could hear, but not see, what was going on:

“Is there a doctor in the house?”

At first, no one ran to render aid, but about 500 of our voices almost laughed the Hofheinz roof into orbit as a result of the first two times the question was shouted.

Fortunately, it was just someone who had passed out from the tedium of what usually is a long and boring evening for almost all who get forced into coming to this sort of thing.

_____________________

Auld Lang Syne

I want to thank old Phi Kappa Theta brother and friend Bruce Biundo and his son, John Biundo, for inviting me to go with them to see the last game at Hofheinz Pavilion.  It was great running into another brother, Richard Kirtley – and his lovely wife Laura Kirtley after the game. Richard played football at UH back in the day – and Laura served up spirit as a UH cheerleader. Wow! I was also in their wedding party in the summer of 1967 – and, unless my math has gone totally south on me – that means that Dick and Laura have a 50th wedding anniversary coming up this summer too.  Thanks to all of you for being part of my life – and for allowing me to be part of yours.

In some ways, the buildings we most revere are like the relationships we build with some people over time. The more love we put into them, the more we hate the thought of ever having to say goodbye.

Rest in Peace, Hofheinz Pavilion – and rest assured as you do. You will never be forgotten by all of us who shall love and protect forever the ground you have rested upon for the past 48 years.

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

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4 Responses to “Lights Now Out at Hofheinz Pavilion”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    The first UH basketball game I watched was at Jeppesen Field House when I was in high school. Later, as a student at UH I saw many games at Delmar. I remember when Hofheinz Pavilion opened.

    When the old Cougar Den was slated to be torn down, an English professor, Dr. Rose, remarked that he remembered when Cougar Den was built. Now I know how he felt.

  2. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Well, I saw Bob Dylan and The Band there in the Before the Flood tour and George Harrison and Billy Something or Other there around 1974. Certainly saw many classic UH teams there on TV. Not sure I ever saw a game live there. Around 1982 I went on its roof with the director of UH facilities to see the leaking roof before recommending a new one to the Lege. In order to get to the roof we had to crawl along a catwalk some 40 feet above the court to get through this ridiculous manhole. Once there and seeing the deterioration, we threw about 200 tennis balls down from where they’d been hit from the nearby tennis courts. Actually a pretty cool memory.

  3. Laura Kirtley Says:

    I saw Chuck Berry in concert. The only concert I saw there. He was and is still awesome.

  4. Pamela Cates Says:

    This Grandma’s favorite was “Jesus Christ Superstar”! Saw many others but that was an iconic experience.

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