If you’re planning to attend a Houston Rockets game and buy tickets like a normal fan, it’s always smart to jump on Toyota Center online and click on “events” first. You might find a special ticket price or bonus deal, like a free hot dog or whatever that night’s giveaway is.
I can’t remember a Houston Rockets deal like the upcoming New Year’s Eve offer, when the Rockets play the Miami Heat and they’re offering one ticket and two free drinks (beer, soda or water) for the crazy low, low price of $21. (Why am I using Mattress Mack's gimmick?)
A beer at Rockets games costs $9. Crunch the numbers and you’re getting a ticket to a regular season NBA game with an attractive, most likely playoff-bound opponent in town, from an official, reliable ticket source, for $3. You’re losing money by staying home!
The New Year's Eve game will start at 6 pm. Be smart, wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
The only Houston sports deal that tops the Rockets beer-soaked offer took place in May 1995, when then Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane — as an apology to fans for one of baseball’s beloved work stoppages — gave away all 54,350 tickets (four per person) to a game against the visiting Phillies.
How angry were fans at baseball coming off the strike? Even though all 54,350 free tickets were claimed, only 30,828 people showed up at the Astrodome for the game. Trivia buffs know that the Phils beat the Astros that night, 5-2, with pitcher Curt Schilling besting Doug Drabek.
Of course fans who buy the Rockets’ one ticket/two drinks deal shouldn’t expect to sit courtside. But you’ll be in the building and the Rockets are playing pretty decent ball since their horrendous 1-16 start. They’re sitting at 10-20 heading into the December 20 game against the Bulls in Chicago. Upper deck tickets at Rockets home games can run $60 to $80 and up depending on seat location and the opponent. And that’s without free anything.
Of course, there’s the option of buying tickets on the secondary market or from those friendly sidewalk vendors shouting “Who needs two tickets?” Those prices fluctuate with demand and how close to the opening tap.
However, if you don’t missing the first quarter of games and you catch a desperate scalper downtown heading home, there are rock-bottom prices to be had: I have a friend who once bought a ticket for Paul McCartney at Toyota Center for $5. He missed the first few songs, but he saw Macca do “Hey Jude,” “Yesterday,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Get Back,” and the medley from Abbey Road live in-person — for less than he could buy those songs on iTunes.
The Rockets aren’t dumb (not counting certain trades we don’t need to bring up here). While they’re practically giving away the New Year’s Eve game, they’ll still make money off you for parking, jerseys, food, and your second (and please no more) beer.
As every opening act at Giggles comedy club would say, that’s how they getcha.
For comparison: A beer at Astros games costs $7.50 at Minute Maid Park. Surprisingly, a beer costs only $6 at Texans games at NRG Stadium. The cheapest beer I could find is $5 at Falcons games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Jets games at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The most expensive suds are $11.50 for New Orleans Saints games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Buccaneers games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Rockets are averaging 15,183 fans at games this season. The seating capacity at Toyota Center for basketball is more than 18,000, so the Rockets need butts to fill those seats.
The Rockets best season for drawing fans was 2013-24 when they averaged 18,124 fans at games. That was James Harden’s first year in Houston.
Mind you, the NBA — like other pro sports leagues — includes season tickets sold, individual game tickets, plus freebies given to sponsors, radio contest winners, local big shots, and players’ friends and family in its announced attendance figure.
For example: that’s how the Texans with a straight face can say last Sunday’s attendance was 67,000 when NRG Stadium looked half-empty and was quieter than a branch library.