Ken Hoffman relives the Seinfeldian quest to score the last beer on closing night of the Compaq Center
This week marks 20 years since a Houston icon shut its doors for the last time.
On November 30, 2003, Compaq Center/The Summit closed for good. The last event for the public entertainment and sports venue was Disney on Ice: 3 Jungle Adventures.
I called my friend Reg “Third Degree” Burns and said, “we have to go to this.” Third Degree was all in. He said, “I want to be the last person to order a beer there.”
That tracks. See, Third Degree has this thing about being first or last. We camped out all night to be the first people to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut in Houston. We were the first people to ride the light rail train in Houston. We were all over the news that night.
Some people want to climb Mount Everest, and some people …
Remembering The Summit/Compaq Center
Back to our big Disney adventure/debacle in a sec, but first, some history.
The Summit, located next to Greenway Plaza on the Southwest Freeway feeder, opened in 1975. It was renamed Compaq Center in 1998. After the arena closed five years later it was taken over by Joel and Victoria Osteen and transitioned into Lakewood Church.
Over the years, The Summit/Compaq Center hosted the Houston Rockets, Houston Aeros, Houston Summit (MISL indoor soccer team), Houston Hotshots (CISL indoor soccer team), Houston ThunderBears (indoor football team), and the Houston Comets.
The Rockets won two NBA titles and the Comets won four WNBA championships in that building.
The Summit/Compaq Center also was Houston’s top concert venue. Among the acts that played there: the Who, Eagles, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, KISS, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Journey, Prince, Michael Jackson, Genesis, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, and Shakira.
The Summit was the first Houston sports venue to sell its naming rights, becoming Compaq Center in 1998. The computer company paid $4.5 million to hang its sign outside the building.
To show you how long ago 1975 was, The Summit/Compaq Center cost $27 million to build. In 2003, Toyota Center opened in downtown Houston to replace The Summit. Toyota Center, with approximately the same capacity as The Summit, cost $235 million to build. The Toyota car company paid $100 million for the naming rights. (Editor’s note: Thanks for informing our readers that Toyota sells cars, Ken. Service journalism at its finest.)
“Bienvenido a Disney...”
Now, back to the swan song event/debacle at The Summit/Compaq Center.
Normally, Disney on Ice would be the last thing Third Degree Burns would ever attend. But the honor of ordering the last beer at the place where the Rockets won the NBA title was too much to resist. I told my little boy that we were going to Disney on Ice and he should ask a few friends if they wanted to join us.
That night, I drove, Third Degree rode shotgun, four kids jammed in the back seat. We parked underground at Greenway, entered Compaq Center, and found our seats for the two-hour children’s show.
The first surprise: the announcer said tonight’s narrator would be speaking Spanish. Neither Third Degree nor I speak Spanish. And then came the voice of doom.
The quest for Bud Ice at Disney on Ice
“There will be a limited number of concession stands open tonight — and no alcoholic beverages will be sold.”
Uh-oh. Third Degree likes his beer. So now, he was stuck in an unheated arena, forced to watch Disney on Ice — in Spanish — for two hours without a beer. I never saw a sadder face in my life.
We couldn’t leave because … well, you try telling kids’ parents that we left Disney on Ice before it started because they didn’t sell beer. How were we supposed to know our seats were in the “family section” where no beer was sold or allowed?
This was worse than the day Third Degree and I went to watch a game at Yankee Stadium and we bought bleacher seats from a scalper outside the ballpark. I didn’t see Third Degree again until the subway ride back to Manhattan.
Needless to say, we now always check the booze sales policy before the two of us attend any Disney event.
Got a favorite Summit/Compaq Center memory? Let Ken know at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.