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HOUSTON-Toyota’s name will light the $235-million, 775,000-sf arena, a primetime anchor for the Houston CBD revitalization, in a long-term contract that further deepens the commitment to the state of Texas.

Toyota Center opens the first week of September as the new home for the Houston Rockets, Houston Comets and Houston Aeros. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. signed the contract with the arena owner, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, and the facility’s operator, Clutch City Sports & Entertainment, which holds a 30-year contract as overseer. Additional information about the deal could not be obtained by publication time.

Deborah Wahl Meyer, corporate marketing manager, said in a press release that “this is the first time Toyota has named an arena and represents a natural extension of Toyota’s commitment to the city of Houston and the state of Texas, which spans for more than 30 years.” The manufacturer, though, has lent its backing through the years to numerous events of the LA Lakers, New York Giants, Detroit Red Wings, Memphis Redbirds, LA Dodgers, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Coyotes.

In the last 30 years, Toyota has invested about $40 million in the Greater Houston area in the development of 20 dealerships, a vehicle processing center and regional distributorship. The area’s dealers pushed hard for the corporate support of Houston’s championship teams: the Rockets, two-time NBA champions; Comets, four-time WBA champions; and the Aeros, a one-time AHL champion.

The CBD’s newest economic stimulus–with 18,500 seats–has a main entrance at Polk and LaBranch streets, within walking distance of the George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park, formerly Enron Field. Toyota Center also sets up a premier branding opportunity for the manufacturer since it will include a 3,900-sf vehicle showroom and a double-size suite, “The Tundra Zone,” named after its new truck line.

Earlier this year, San Antonio won a heated race to be the manufacturing site for the Tundra, which will start rolling off assembly lines in 2006. The $800-million plant will be built on 2,000 acres in San Antonio’s southern sector.

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