Betting on Their Own Team: Sugar Land's Minor-League Gamble Pays Off

Photo by Marco Torres

Houston is a rambling, gambling town and this year Best of Houston celebrates those in the community who are taking a chance.

At baseball's major league level, the stadium boom of the 1990s was built on promises of economic stimulation and community pride, with cities investing hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to fund new workplaces for their local teams. The "if you build it, they will come" mantra from the 1989 classic Field of Dreams lit the way for more than 20 cities to approve funds to break ground on new stadiums between 1990 and 2008.

Whether all those communities saw an economic return on their investment is a matter of debate, but Sugar Land heard the mantra in 2008 when voters approved the investment of tens of millions of dollars to build a minor-league baseball stadium. Civic leaders tossed around phrases like "spur economic activity" and "potential ancillary development" while asking for several different taxing mechanisms.

Sugar Land's vision entailed fewer taxpayer dollars than those of their big-league metropolitan counterparts, but theirs came with far more risk and far fewer promises. Questions abounded, including: Which minor-league team could the city of Sugar Land attract? How thirsty is Sugar Land for minor-league baseball? Would the Houston Astros throw up roadblocks, viewing Sugar Land's efforts as competition?

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The 2014 Best of Houston® Readers' Poll: Vote Now for the Best of Houston!

Live somewhere long enough and you develop a collection of favorite locations, places you can always count on to deliver a good times or good service. You have your favorite museum to explore, your favorite bike trail, your favorite local sports star, so on and so forth.

In a few weeks, our Best of Houston® 2014 issue is going to drop and we'll have our list of favorites for you to read and check out. Of course, we also know that you feel very passionate about some of the subjects, which is why we're giving you the chance to let us know what your favorite spots are.

That's right, it's time for the 2014 Best of Houston® Readers' Poll.

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Time to Tell Us What You Think: Our Annual Readers' Choice Awards

It's time

We're getting ready for our annual Best of Houston issue which will hit the stands in early October.

This year's theme: We're gamblers willing to take chances and roll the dice. As a result, Houston has prospered and even when the pot gets low, we double down and rebound. And so do the people who live here in every category from restaurants to government to health to sports. Houston is holding a winning hand and we're going to tell everyone so in this year's Best of Houston.

The other important part of BOH -- besides our writers' picks -- is our Readers' Choice awards. That's where you tell us what you think the best places/people are in 99 categories as well as the category we forgot.

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Best of Houston® 2013: Rest of the Best - Houston Rockets Edition

Photo by Jeff Balke
Meet your 2012 Best Rocket!
Were you so inclined to look up the Best Rocket category from previous Best of Houston® issues, you would find these honorees for the past ten years:

Yao Ming (2003-2004, 2006)
Tracy McGrady (2005)
Shane Battier (2007, 2009-2010)
Rafer Alston (2008)
Luis Scola (2011)
Chuck Hayes (2012)

Let's start by saying that if Rafer Alston and Chuck Hayes are on your list of your best players over the past ten years, it has been a tough decade. Just one year ago, we anointed Hayes, the tough, undersized defensive-minded power forward, as our Best Rocket. Today, he is playing ten minutes per game for the 1-5 Sacramento Kings.

To say the Rockets are on the upswing would be an understatement even if Shane Battier hadn't been their best player three of the past ten seasons, but given that fact (and Alston because, what the hell?), it's damn near miraculous.

It should be no surprise who is in our top spot this season. It should also not be a shocker that all of our top 5 this year would be in the argument for Best Rocket over the past decade, and illustrative of just how bad the Rockets have been. Well, onward and upward.

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Best of Houston® 2013: Rest of the Best - Houston Texans Edition

Photos by Groovehouse
Andre Johnson: Always on our top 10 list.
A lot can change in just over two weeks. Two weeks ago, Matt Schaub was the Texans "best" quarterback. Two weeks ago, Brian Cushing's knee wasn't mangled from a vicious hit. Two weeks ago, Danieal Manning wasn't out with a mysterious "leg" injury. Even Owen Daniels was still playing, though he should return. Also, the Texans season was still worth salvaging. Today, not so much.

Without questions, when taking a look at our Best Texan category from this year's Best of Houston®, there are names that will be left off either due to ineptitude or season-ending injury. It makes for a tough situation for the team but a much more interesting list of players for our Rest of the Best.

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Best of Houston® 2013: University of Houston's Dr. Renu Khator

Photo by Daniel Kramer
Dr. Renu Khator
A great city, no matter where it is, needs an equally powerful university. That's what Dr. Renu Khator, president and chancellor of the University of Houston System, thinks.

Like so many Houstonians, Khator is not a native. When she accepted her position with UH, she had been to the city only once before, for a wedding. She'd barely seen the place that she would eventually call home. But that didn't bother her. She did her research on Houston and seeing it in person or not, she was thoroughly impressed. Khator says that the city's immense diversity and the growth that it has experienced made it an ideal situation for her.

"Houston has every ingredient to be a great city," says Khator. "I immediately knew it was the destination for me."

Becoming the 13th president of the University of Houston System has been a challenge. Khator developed a laundry list for the direction she wanted the university to go and the type of service she believed it should offer to the community. Khator says she believes that for a city to grow and prosper, it needs a university to mirror that trajectory.

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Best Of Houston 2013: J.J. Watt made Houstonians love him, whether they wanted to or not

Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
Ain't we lucky we got him? Good times.
The NFL Draft is a time of hope for every team, and in April 2011, Houston Texans fans were in dire need of some hope. Coming off a 2010 season where their team's defense was historically awful, fans wanted something big on draft night.

So the Texans were on the clock. Fans chewed their nails nervously in anticipation as the card was handed to Commissioner Roger Goodell. He stepped to the microphone and read:

"With the 11th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select defensive end J.J. Watt from Wisconsin."

The response from much of Houston?


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The 2013 Houston Press Best of Houston Readers' Poll: Vote Now for the Best of Houston!

For 25 years we at the Houston Press have been hitting the streets to visit local businesses in search of the Best of Houston. Our October 10th issue will reveal our picks for the best Houston has to offer in entertainment, dining, shopping, and more. We're pretty excited to share our picks with you.

We're also excited to find out what you think the Best of Houston is, which is why we're putting up this reminder to go vote in the 2013 Best of Houston Readers' Poll. Let us know what your favorite Houston spots are in a variety of categories including Best Beach, Best Jogging Trail, Best Sports Bar and more. The Readers' Poll closes at 11:59 p.m. on September 22, 2013.

We know Houston rules. You know Houston rules. The country and the world are learning that Houston rules. Let's show them the best we have to offer. Vote now!

Get Psyched! Your Best of Houston® Webmercial Is Here to Get You Ready

It's coming
The time is nigh, not to mention near.

This week is the annual unveiling of the Best of Houston® awards, the eagerly awaited announcement of just what readers (and the rest of us) find so enthralling, thrilling, entertaining and fulfilling about our little city by the bay.

It's "Growth and Regrowth" this year, and we'll be looking for, among other things, assets that fit the theme:

Always a city with muscle, Houston gets stronger by the day -- hence the theme of this year's Houston Press Best of Houston® edition: Growth and Regrowth. That's not news to us, but it is to some. The city that used to feel like our little secret seems to be getting more and more national recognition.

The picks come out online Wednesday and in print Thursday. Here's some video to get you properly pumped.

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Week in Photos: Tolerance

Each week, we take a dip into the Houston Press Flickr pool and see what our talented photographers have been up to. We're looking for pictures that represent the best of Houston, from food to art to events, to secret hidden spots of beauty. Just drop them in our Flickr group right here. Maybe you'll see them in this spot next week.

As always, for more information on a subject or photographer, just click on the photo.

Tolerance Statue 3

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