Editor’s note: Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talks a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul
This is part two of his Houston stadium series. You can find part one — Minute Maid Park — here.
By PAUL MUTH
All right. Today we’re peeling back the layers of Toyota Center, home of the only team in Houston that refuses to accept mediocrity — the Houston Rockets.
Seriously, look at the team. In the past 30 years, the Rockets have had three losing seasons. THREE. It’s the only team that Houstonians sound pretentious being mad at. I’ll admit, I was disgusted at last season’s 41-41 record, despite the fact that they still made the playoffs. That’s essentially equivalent to that one insufferably good looking friend we all have complaining about only getting hit on twice at the bar instead of four times. YOU STILL GOT HIT ON, BRO. You’ll be fine.
Make no mistake; the Rockets are insufferably good looking this year. They’re ridiculously fun to watch with all the three pointers they drain, not to mention they’re sitting comfortably as the third seed in the Western Conference, own the third-best record in the entire league, and have played the only two teams they’re looking up at pretty damn well. Oh, and then there’s James Harden. Let’s talk about James Harden.
Harden is having a historic season that’s resulted in his emergence as one of the frontrunners for this year’s MVP race. The dude is just filthy; he’s playing out of his mind, and refuses to take rest days like many other players. Don’t come at me with your Russell Westbrook counter-argument. I’ve got something for that.
You should be going out with the insufferably good-looking Rockets right now. Hang out with them. I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Where to get Tickets:
Absolute no-brainer here. Flashseats is the way to go. You can find seats as low as $15, and you can also bid a lower price if you’re so inclined. If you pay face value you’re looking at $50 aticket at least. It’s definitely supply and demand driven so don’t expect anything cheap when the Cavs or Warriors head into town
.Where to Park:
Once again, park south of highway 59. Polk is mainly free to park on, as well as Hutchins. Parking here will set you up in great position for the most important step.
Where to Pregame:
If you want to show out, you can always just pull up a seat at the bar at Pappasito’s across the street from the arena. Don’t do that. There’s a Pappasito’s near home, guaranteed. Just go to that one. Instead, go see the damn neighborhood. If you parked where I suggested, well guess what? You’re right in front of 8th Wonder Brewery. It doesn’t get more Houston than pregaming at a brewery whose entire image is predicated off of, well, Houston sports and…Houston stuff (see what i did there?! Yea you did, I’m awesome). Toss back a “Rocket Fuel” coffee porter or their seasonal “Dream Shake” stout while lounging in seats pulled straight from the Astrodome itself and grab some SLAB fries from the Eatsie Boys food truck parked out back. If beer just isn’t your thing, then head northwest one block to The Secret Group. Most Rockets games start by 7 and The Secret Group has a Happy Hour from 5-7. Three dollar wells, people. You do the math.
Where to get beer:
From either of these pregaming spots, head up Polk Street and enter at the corner of Polk and Jackson Street. There’s a full service bar behind section 112 and 101. There aren’t any hidden gems like Minute Maid, so it’s usually Bud Light or Zeigenbock for me, unfortunately. Upstairs there’s a Tito’s bar behind section 411 and another full bar behind section 424. If possible, avoid sitting in sections 416 to 420. There’s a children’s play area over there and you have to walk at least a quarter of the way around the arena to get anything.
Where to eat:
HTX Brew and Grub in section 108 is the Toyota Center equivalent of Minute Maid Park’s Street Eats stand. Good grub, start there. Sections 125 and 403 will satisfy your BBQ cravings fairly well with HOU BBQ, but other than that pickings are slim at Toyota Center outside of the standard fare.
Sidenote: For those of you with a sweet tooth, be sure to go to Clutch the mascot’s annual birthday celebration. They give out free cake to everyone in attendance. This is great, especially when your friend’s birthday is around the same time and you, him and 10 other friends go to the game and you convince all 10 of them to go grab slices and give them to the birthday boy at the same time. I’m just…assuming…
Where it gets rowdy:
The entire upper bowl, honestly. They’ve priced out the diehard fans from downstairs, so it’s not uncommon to see a sparsely seated lower arena contrasted by a packed upper concourse. The only real exception to the lower concourse is section 114, home of the Rockets’ diehard fan group, the Red Rowdies. The Red Rowdies were the creation of then-Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy. He held tryouts for the craziest fans and gave the best ones season tickets. They’ve been going nuts ever since, despite their hilariously outdated page on the Rockets official site (I never knew Chase Budinger had his own chant. That’s on me).
Toyota Center is a great venue, but it certainly lacks the easter eggs that Minute Maid Park ha stashed across the place. It doesn’t need them though, because you should honestly just be watching those insufferably good looking Rockets wreck shop this season.
Next up: BBVA Compass stadium.