Fertitta Interested in Bringing NHL, WNBA Teams to Houston

Posted on: April 11, 2024, 03:50h. 

Last updated on: April 12, 2024, 09:13h.

Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Golden Nugget casino empire, is interested in bringing NHL and WNBA franchises to Houston where he already owns the NBA’s Rockets.

Fertitta Wynn
Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta. The owner of Golden Nugget casinos is interested in bringing NHL and WNBA teams to Houston. (Image: Bloomberg)

In a February interview with Bloomberg, Fertitta said he’s been in talks with the NHL about the possibility of bringing a team to the fourth-largest US city, noting that discussions had recently turned more serious.

We would like to work to get an NHL team in Houston — I’m working on it,” he said in a Wednesday interview with CNBC.

Fertitta’s interest in bringing an NHL franchise to Houston dates back to 2017 when he acquired the Rockets for $2.2 billion. The Houston Aeros, a minor league hockey team that sporadically called the city home, played at the Toyota Center. That’s the Rockets’ home court. The arena seats 19,000 for basketball games and when fitted for a hockey rink, it can accommodate 17,800 fans.

The billionaire businessman said he’s open to either an expansion NHL team or to moving an existing franchise from another city to Houston, which is currently the largest US city without an NHL team. The league doesn’t have imminent expansion plans, but the fate of the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix is up in the air due to controversies in getting the team a new arena. However, the Coyotes could move to Salt Lake City as soon as next season.

Not Fertitta’s First Effort to Add to Sports Holdings

Efforts to potentially bring NHL and WNBA teams to Houston aren’t Fertitta’s first in terms of expanding his sports ownership portfolio beyond the Rockets.

Last year, he bid $5.6 billion for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, but dropped out of contention for the team when a bidding war took the price tag to $6 billion. At that time, he said he offered $5.6 billion because that’s the value Forbes assigned to the team, adding that he didn’t $6 billion as an appropriate price.

NHL teams carry significantly lower price tags than their NFL counterparts. The value of the Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s newest team, was $1.22 billion at the end of last year, according to Forbes. The defending Stanley Cup champion Las Vegas Golden Knights, the second-youngest team in the league, are worth an estimated $1.12 billion.

The most valuable NHL franchise, according to Forbes, is the Toronto Maple Leafs at $2.8 billion.

WNBA Interest

Fertitta also expressed interest in returning the WNBA to Houston. From 1997 through 2008, the city was home to the Comets — the WNBA’s first dynasty — before the league disbanded the team.

“I would consider, definitely, I think it’s a great topic with women’s sports to talk about a WNBA team in Houston also,” said Fertitta in the CNBC interview.

Fertitta Entertainment Inc. (FEI) controls the Landry’s restaurant empire and the Golden Nugget casinos. The group owns more than 600 restaurants across the Bubba Gump’s, Chart House, Del Frisco’s, Mastro’s, and Morton’s brands, among others.