Football in Texas may forever be associated with Friday Night Lights, the Longhorns, Aggies, Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans, but on Sunday night in early February, die-hard football fans and casual fans alike from around the globe will turn their focus to Houston, Texas, the sprawling metropolis along the Gulf Coast, for Super Bowl LI, the “First Super Bowl for the Next 50 Years.”
February 5 marks the third time that Houston has played host to the Super Bowl, but the preparation and buzz surrounding Super Bowl LI seems to be different than the others. Houston’s first Super Bowl was held in 1974 in Rice University Stadium, marking the first time a Super Bowl site was not that of an NFL franchise or the Los Angeles, Miami or New Orleans areas. Thirty years later in 2004, the city hosted its second Super Bowl in NRG Stadium (then referred to as Reliant Stadium), which was constructed in 2002 for the city’s new NFL franchise. Now, as Houston prepares for the 2017 Super Bowl, the buzz can be felt throughout the region, and the importance of this event seems to be far surpassing that of a championship football game.
Beneath the surface of all of the excitement, the Super Bowl and the 150,000 people the event is expected to bring to the Houston MSA are serving as a perfect impetus for the revitalization of Houston’s convention and central business district, primarily because the Super Bowl revenues are insignificant when compared to the potential business that Houston will be able to draw as a leading convention center in the U.S. In order to capitalize on everything that the Super Bowl can bring to a city, Houston has been focusing its efforts on improving hotel packages, attractions and activities and convention facilities throughout the city, as the period directly after the Super Bowl is just as important as before and during the Super Bowl.
Houston’s hotel market has long been in need of more rooms and newer product, and hosting the Super Bowl was more than enough motivation to start building. In Houston’s CBD alone (approximately six miles north of NRG Stadium), eight new hotels are slated for completion, bringing more than 2,650 new rooms to the market. The most notable of these being the $370 million development of the Marriott Marquis, which boasts 1,000 rooms, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, a sky bridge connection to the George R. Brown Convention Center and a Texas-shaped lazy river. It is also difficult to ignore the impact the Super Bowl can have on the pricing of hotel rooms, with Super Bowl premium pricing increasing average rates anywhere from 200 to 600 percent.
Whether you live in the CBD, one of Houston’s many suburban areas or are a first-time visitor to the city, the events leading up to the Super Bowl will afford multiple opportunities for fans to be a part of the action. The Touchdown Tour is the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee’s traveling celebration of football, with 11 stops throughout the greater Houston area featuring games, exhibits, appearances and other activities for all ages. Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston will be the site for Super Bowl LIVE, a 10-day fan festival featuring free concerts from music’s biggest names, including Houston natives ZZ Top; Houston’s acclaimed food scene; NFL experience fan games and a partnership with NASA to create a “future flight” exhibit. Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center has also added a 97,000-square-foot plaza to its ground floor called Avenida Houston, which includes seven new restaurant concepts and art installations.
Houston’s convention center is located directly across the street from Discovery Green Park and has been a focus for revitalization over the past few years leading up to the Super Bowl. However, greater emphasis has been placed on increasing hotel supply, which includes increasing the meeting space being provided and improving attractions downtown. This will precede any major expansion of the convention center and will also have positive implications for office space and multifamily developments as more people relocate to Houston. There are more than $2.2 billion in new downtown construction projects – inclusive of hotel development – currently underway, with another $2 billion in pre-development/design and nearly one-third of these projects being residential developments.
Whether the approximately 80 players and coaches that will represent the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI know it or not, their game will create a significant impact on an entire region, the effects of which could last for decades to come. This game has become one of the greatest spectacles in modern sports garnering the attention of people around the world, and, frankly, it could not have come at a better time for the city of Houston.
Wesley Hightower is a Real Estate Analyst in the Houston office of HFF with more than four years of experience in commercial real estate and finance. He is primarily responsible for performing financial and market analysis, preparing offering documents and coordinating the due diligence process for the investment sales group. During his career, Mr. Hightower has been involved in excess of $1 billion in industrial, office and medical office transactions
Mr. Hightower joined the firm in January 2013. Prior to joining HFF, he worked at CMC Americas as a Business Data Analyst. Mr. Hightower is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in economics.