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Tilman Fertitta Says He’s In Serious Talks To Bring An NHL Team To Downtown Houston


Tilman Fertitta’s discussions with the National Hockey League about bringing a team to the city are getting weightier, according to the Houston billionaire who first floated the idea of a hometown NHL team seven years ago.

Houston's Toyota Center

Fertitta is angling to bring a professional hockey team to Downtown Houston, where he owns restaurants, including Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, The Palm and McCormick & Schmick’s, he told Bloomberg News in an interview Tuesday. The restaurateur and casino owner has eyed moving a team to Houston or starting a new one since buying the NBA's Houston Rockets in 2017.

“We are talking to the NHL, but it’s got to be good for both of us,” Fertitta told Bloomberg. “We just know that when there’s a concert downtown, how it activates downtown, we know what the Astros do for downtown, we know what even soccer does for downtown.”

Houston has never had an NHL team, and hockey is the only professional sport the city is missing. The American Hockey League's Houston Aeros moved to Iowa in 2013. The team had been in Houston since 1994 and played at the 18,300-capacity Toyota Center in Downtown Houston, where the Rockets continue to play.

Houston is the largest city without an NHL team and sits at the "very top" of the list to land one, according to ESPN NHL commentator John Buccigross. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said last year that the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, the subject of relocation speculation for years, could make a new home in Houston if its new stadium plans don’t work out.

Fertitta has fielded requests from suburban Houston officials to bring an NHL team there, he told Bloomberg, but boosting the city's downtown district has been a long-term goal. 

The billionaire is also pushing for more resort-style casinos in Texas, which the Texas Legislature has never allowed outside of three Native American establishments, Bloomberg reported. Fertitta said it could be possible for a direct appeal to voters, or a referendum, to pave a path for gambling legislation. 

But it would still take years for a new casino to open even if the legislation were approved, Fertitta said.

Fertitta late last year bought a prime Memorial Drive property adjacent to his White House venue and Brenner’s on the Bayou restaurant. He hasn't specified plans for the 1.6-acre property and 18K SF building, which is occupied by Comerica Bank until this summer.