Building the Next Generation of Sports Venues

Today, Houston is envied around the sports world for the quality of its state-of-the-art athletic and entertainment venues, but it wasn’t that long ago that the city’s reputation in those same circles was in shambles. In the mid-1990s — with the Houston Oilers football team having already left town, and the Houston Astros and Rockets contemplating leaving as well — a San Francisco sports reporter told the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain “the perception around the country is that Houston is a dying sports town.”

Not anymore.

Few people have been more intimately involved in the remarkable resurrection of Houston’s professional sports infrastructure than Chris Begala. He was “present at the creation” in Houston Mayor Bob Lanier’s offices in 1996 when the public referendum to finance a new generation of sports stadiums was conceived, and successfully managed the vital communications and political strategy leading to the initiative’s passage by the citizens of Harris County that fall.

From there, Begala assisted and worked closely with the Houston legislative team which resulted in the passage of House Bill 92 in May of 1997 and led to the creation of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority — the entity that owns and managed all facets of building the first stadium project (Minute Maid Park) from financing, to construction, to public and media relations.

Given his performance and experience, Chris was subsequently tapped by the Sports Authority to manage the political and media operations — and on Opening Day, April 5, 2000, was of the very few that was involved in every step of the way. Today, Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, stands as one of the finest baseball stadiums in the world — hosting the 2004 All-Star game and the 2005 World Series. Houston Astros’ owner Drayton McLane said, “Chris Begala worked diligently with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to help make the dream of Minute Maid Park become a reality.”

Returning the NFL to Houston

Begala managed many of the same duties leading to the development of Reliant Stadium through groundbreaking and the first phase of construction. He also worked with Houston Texans’ owner Bob McNair, as well as leading officials from the National Football League, Harris County and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to bring back the NFL to Houston — a dream that was realized in October of 1999.

Today, like Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium is regarded as one of the preeminent sports facilities in existence and plays host to the Houston Texans, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and events like the 2004 Super Bowl, NCAA Final Fours, soccer and more

Chris Begala at the stadium during construction.
Then, Enron Field nearing completion.
Then, Enron Field during construction.
Interior of Reliant Stadium, Houston
Then, Enron Field nearing completion.
Grand Opening of then, Enron Field as the Houston Astros battled the New York Yankees in March of 2000.
Chris Begala assisted Bob McNair & Houston Rodeo in Acquiring Houston Texans
Interior Union Station during construction
Reliant Stadium in Houston.
An interior shot of Minute Maid Park.