Skip to main content

Houston Emerging as a Premier International Sports Destination

Published Nov 06, 2023 by Taylor Tatum

Minute Maid Park
Astros Entertainment District Rendering

Game Viewing Area Rendering Courtesy of Houston Astros

Houston, also known as the Bayou City, Space City and the Energy Capital of the World, might be adding another title as it is rapidly gaining recognition as an international sports city.

After years of bidding for and hosting small-scale events, the Houston region has successfully secured and will host a series of major sporting events in the upcoming years, including the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship, 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the 2025, 2027 and 2031 AAU Junior Olympic Games. Houston also recently hosted the NCAA Final Four, LPGA Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, and has been announced as a host city for several 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup matches. 

According to a recent report from OLBG, Houston is the sixth most valuable sports city in the U.S. in terms of revenue generated from NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS teams and predicted revenue growth, but it is projected to move into the top five by 2030. Speculations abound that Houston may soon welcome an NHL team, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, which could further bolster its rankings. 

Despite Houston's wins, the city was ranked No. 29 in a recent evaluation of the 50 best cities for sports business by the Sports Business Journal, behind Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Criticisms revolved around Houston's sprawling nature and lack of walkability. Another concern raised was the relative freshness of its venues, with three of its major stadiums—NRG Stadium, Minute Maid Park, and Toyota Center— having been constructed in the early 2000s. Shell Energy Stadium is the newest major stadium, opened in 2012.  

Beyond the 350-acre complex housing NRG Center, NRG Arena and the Astrodome, the absence of appealing establishments such as restaurants, bars, and hotels for visitors detracts from Houston's identity as a sports city, according to Houston First CEO Michael Heckman.  

To address this, Houston First and organizations like the South Main Alliance's Main Street Coalition are actively exploring comprehensive plans to develop the area and attract commercial developers to this currently underdeveloped region.  

The Houston Astros recently announced plans for an entertainment district adjacent to Minute Maid Park that will feature a 17-story hotel, 60,000 square feet of retail space for restaurants and shops and a three-level gathering area for fans to watch Astros games and other major sporting events on a massive outdoor screen. The venue will also host live music performances. The Astros expect to break ground in November 2024.

NRG Park also has plans to revamp its complex over several years while Minute Maid Park has recently completed upgrades to its video display technology as part of a new partnership with Samsung, in addition to its 8,500-square-foot team store constructed at center field and new food options. 

In an interview with the Houston Business Journal, Heckman stated that “the trend [for cities] is to create these entertainment districts around the sports and entertainment complexes. For us, I think it's a phenomenal opportunity to learn lessons from the others that have done this around the country, but also to make it uniquely Houston.” 

While there are currently no definite plans, NRG Park CEO and Executive Director Ryan Walsh believes that the area around the complex is “really ripe for development. Give it five years... I think you're gonna see a lot of change in this area.” 

Learn more about living in Houston.

Related News

Economic Development

Texas Dominates Business Attraction, Houston Remains a Top Leader

3/1/24
The Houston region has once again ranked third among top U.S. metros for attracting new business, according to Site Selection Magazine’s yearly analysis, while Texas earned its 12th consecutive Governor’s Cup.  “The Governor’s Cups recognize not only the winning governors, but their entire economic development teams, and by extension, the many professionals throughout their states who work every day to attract new investment and retain and grow existing businesses,” said Mark Arend, editor emeritus of Site Selection.  Site Selection identified 1,254 project wins for Texas in 2023, more than doubling the next-highest state, Illinois. With 226 more projects than 2022, Texas saw a 22% increase in projects. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA won 413 projects, an uptick of more than 150 since 2022. Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth placed first and second, respectively, in the top U.S. metros category.  "We are excited to see Texas continues to be the leading State for corporate relocations and expansions," said Partnership Vice President of Regional Economic Development Craig Rhodes. "Houston’s ranking as a top three metro further highlights the unique opportunity we have in our region for companies to access diverse talent, critical infrastructure, and the convergence of industries to grow their business on a global scale." Here is a look at a few of the notable project wins in 2023 for the Houston area:  Cart.com, an e-commerce unicorn that returned to Houston from Austin in efforts to scale its business. The move highlighted the value in Houston’s transportation infrastructure and accessibility, as well as its large and diverse talent pool.  Packgene Biotech, a CRO and CDMO company founded in Massachusetts, which broke ground on its 22,000 square feet cGMP manufacturing facility in 2023. This facility will create up to 80 jobs with $20 million invested. They are already in the expansion process to grow the facility to 35,000 square feet. This project will accelerate gene therapy product development by providing a fully integrated one-stop solution for clients.  Sumika Semiconductor Materials, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Chemical, is building a high-purity semiconductor process chemical manufacturing plant in the Houston region. The project includes an investment of $250 million and will create 50 jobs in the region.  SEG Solar, a solar panel manufacturing company, is slated to open its 145,000 square feet Houston facility by mid-2024. The project is projected to create 500 jobs with a capital investment of $60 million. The move reinforces Houston’s status as Energy Capital of the World.   In an interview with Site Selection Magazine, Governor Greg Abbott pointed to the state’s pro-business environment as to why companies keep choosing to relocate or expand their businesses in Texas.  “Industry-leading CEOs cite our pro-growth economic policies — with no corporate income tax and no personal income tax — along with our strong and growing workforce, easy access to global markets, robust infrastructure, and business-friendly regulations, "Abbott said.  The state’s new economic incentives program will be a critical tool in attracting new companies to the region. The Texas Jobs Energy, Technology, and Innovation, or JETI, program, replaces Chapter 313, which sunset in 2022.   Learn more on why companies continue to choose Houston. 
Read More
Economic Development

Bridgeland’s 925-Acre Urban District Taking Shape, Driving Growth in Cypress

2/29/24
A groundbreaking 925-acre urban district situated in the heart of Bridgeland, Cypress’ massive master-planned community, is beginning to take shape as construction commences on its mixed-use development.   Spanning 70-acres, Village Green at Bridgeland Central aims to redefine Houston’s Northwest market, offering more than 28,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, as well as a 100,000-square-foot H-E-B and 49,000-square-foot sustainable office building dubbed One Bridgeland Green.    Click to expand According to Bridgeland’s website, One Bridgeland Green will be the region’s first mass timber office development. Designed to reduce 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of its annual water consumption, the building sets a new standard for the future of eco-friendly workspaces.   Village green will service nearby residents of the district’s already developed apartment complex Starling at Bridgeland, which opened in 2022, and its 150-unit townhome community Highland Homes.   Click to expand Although its urban district is still in the early stages of development, Bridgeland has been steadily evolving since 2003. The 11,500-acre master-planned community has since garnered significant acclaim for its array of residences, schools and abundance of outdoor amenities.   Ranking amongst the top five bestselling master-planned communities in the nation, Bridgeland has witnessed a remarkable surge in new home sales, reaching a 74 percent increase year-over-year, according to real estate consultant firm RCLCO. With this momentum, the community is poised to reach its full build-out potential, accommodating an estimated 70,000 residents in the near future.  As Bridgeland continues to revolutionize living in greater Houston, the community's innovative and family-friendly landscape draws the attention of businesses, developers and new residents, driving substantial growth to the area.   According to Community Impact’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Cy-Fair grew by more than 52,000 residents from 2016-2021, marking a 9.4 percent increase in five years.  To accommodate growth, the Grand Parkway from I-10 to U.S. 290, which opened in 2013, is expected to be widen in 2026, improving mobility. Cy-Fair ISD is also responding to the increasing demand for education services by opening two new schools.   Click to expand As developers add more homesites and mixed-use developments to the area, companies are taking note in hopes of establishing a presence where people can live and work. Last year, Chevron acquired more than 77 acres of undeveloped land in Bridgeland for a possible research and development campus.  “Chevron is attracted to the opportunities Bridgeland has to offer and views this acquisition as a strong addition to our asset portfolio,” Daniel Abate, head of Chevron’s corporate real estate, told the Houston Chronicle.  Discover more about Houston’s neighborhoods and communities.  
Read More

Related Events

International Business

Manufacturing, Logistics and Distribution Forum

Houston has the skilled workforce, expertise and logistics capabilities needed to manufacture, transport and distribute goods to customers across the county and around the world - positioning it as the ideal location…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners