THE 2021 WORLD TRANSPLANT GAMES ARE COMING TO HOUSTON
After 41 years abroad, the World Transplant Games will be returning to the U.S. — and their location of choice, as announced by the city yesterday: Houston. When the international competition for those who’ve undergone organ swaps made its last stateside stop in New York, it was a young tradition: just 2 years old. Since then, the annual tournament (originally biannual before the introduction of the every-other-year winter games in 1994) has hit every continent and now features more than 50 events including cycling, swimming, racquet sports, and bowling — open to any body-part recipient age 4 to 80. Earlier this year, the competition’s winters games wrapped up in Anzere, Switzerland with nearly 70 member countries in attendance. Before that, the coastal Spanish town of Málaga played host to last year’s summer events. [City of Houston; more info] Photo of crowd at 2017 games in Málaga, Spain: World Transplant Games
HOW A 6-BILLBOARD COURTSHIP CAMPAIGN AIMS TO LURE LEBRON JAMES TO HOUSTON
“A lot of times, players recruit players,” Rockets fan Greg Andrews tells the Chronicle’s Maggie Gordon, “Teams recruit players. And now, what I’d like to see is fans recruit players.” That’s what the 36-year-old oil-and-gas equipment executive hopes to do with the set of 6 billboards he installed along Houston roads last week. His pitch focuses on Houston’s spirit: “we’re a very hospitable, nice environment,” he says — a potential draw for the 3-time MVP as he enters his mid-30s: “Family matters. It matters in Houston, and it matters to LeBron.” Since the Cavs player isn’t likely to be driving the Houston freeways anytime soon though, Andrews hopes the signs will first inspire other fans to echo his plea (elaborated on his website) in videos shared online and hashtagged #htownthecrown. “My ultimate goal,” says Andrews “is to have J.J. Watt, Jose Altuve, Travis Scott, those Houston celebrities do ‘Hey LeBron’ video” The billboards will stay up for 3 weeks, past the July 1 deadline for LeBron to forgo the rest of his $35.7 million contract with Cleveland and opt into free agency. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Kyle Hagerty
THE ROCKETS ARE SUDDENLY UP FOR SALE A surprise announcement from Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander today: he’s selling the team. The Rockets moved to Houston back in 1971 from their original short-lived home in San Diego, where they were reportedly named for the team’s proximity to the plant where General Dynamics was working on the Atlas program. Alexander bought the franchise for some $85 million back in 1993, just before the Rockets earned Houston its first championship win and the nickname Clutch City; management made some noise about moving everybody to Kentucky around the end of the 90’s, possibly to add urgency to the push to secure city funds for a new stadium (which became known as Toyota Center). The Rockets were appraised at $1.65 billion by Forbes this past February. [NBA.com via KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
USA GYMNASTICS TO BUY OLYMPIC TRAINING RANCH IN SAM HOUSTON NATIONAL FOREST Meanwhile, in Huntsville: Bela and Marta Karolyi are in the process of selling 36.2 acres of their remote women’s gymnastics training facilities north of Houston to USA Gymnastics itself. The Károlyis, who are retiring from more than 3 decades of US gymnastics involvement following their 1981 defection from Soviet-controlled Romania, will keep their own home and most of the rest of their 2,000-acre property, one of many private holdings intermingled with more than 163,000 acres of the federally owned land of Sam Houston National Forest. USA Gymnastics will have right of first refusal if the Károlyis decide to sell any more of the land; closing on the sale is scheduled for 3 days after this month’s Olympic closing ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro. [AP via Bisnow Houston] Image of Sam Houston National Park ranger station: US Forest Service
A ‘dozer was sighted this past week roaming across the newly-cleared plains at the dead end of Acaciawood Dr. into Oakmoor Pkwy., just south of Airport Blvd. between Almeda Rd. and a disconnected stretch of Kirby Dr. (nearly 2 miles southeast of where the main section of Kirby halts, on Holmes Rd. next to the intended UT Houston campus). Workers clearing the land last week told a reader that new apartments were planned for the spot (shown above); the tract, however, is sliced up into single-family-home-sized bites in County Appraisal District records. The land sits south of the Oakmoor Apartments, which sprouted up around the end of 2006. The short neighborhood streets on the other side of Oakmoor were in place by 2008, though the homes now lining them didn’t begin too appear until 2012.
In the distance, the photo above also catches a view of the nearby Harbor Hospice Houston Inpatient Facility (to the left of center, behind a brushpile), and the Citadel on Kirby (to the right), which hosts weddings, galas, and corporate events. Across Kirby lies the Houston Sports Park — work on the first 7 fields at the Houston Dynamo’s professional training facility started at the end of 2009 and wrapped up by 2012. The Houston Parks Board is now fundraising to add an additional 11 fields at the complex, which is also open for public recreational use.
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Oakmoor Oaks No More
Houston builders Westin Homes seems to be expanding into the luxury replica spaceship playhouse market — at least this summer, anyway, hooking up with HomeAid Houston to imagineer something like what you see here and display it this June and July at Minute Maid Park. (That’s Astros mascot Orbit peeking out, as though a tad reluctant to deboard.) Of course, the playhouse isn’t just for show: It’ll be raffled off, with proceeds going to HomeAid, and it’ll eventually find its way to someone’s backyard, where the lucky winners will enjoy its
. . . space-themed amenities such as a cockpit complete with swivel seats, ‘rocket booster’-framed windows, a 32” wall mounted LCD TV, an XBox, an MP3 player, an iPod docking station with speakers and interior detailing . . . air conditioning and electricity.
It doesn’t appear that the playhouse will be suitable for actual space travel — but there’s always next year. (As Astros fans well know.) Most recently, the nonprofit HomeAid started construction on those 8 single-mothers’ duplexes on W. Bellfort in Meyerland on St. John’s Presbyterian property.
Rendering: Westin Homes via HomeAid Houston
COULD THE X GAMES BE COMING TO HOUSTON? Even if the Astrodome’s still around and Houston’s bid to host the 2016 Super Bowl falls through, an important international competition might still be staged here: “ESPN said in January [that] Houston was one of 13 contenders it was considering as a host” for the 2014-2016 X Games, reports the Houston Business Journal’s Bayan Raji. The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark on Sabine St. (shown here) is at the center of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority bid to put on the tricksters’ event that’s been in L.A. the past 9 years, writes Raji, along with Reliant Stadium and the Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium. Whether the skatepark going up in Greenspoint, billed in January as the largest in the U.S., also figures in the bid Raji doesn’t say; ESPN will announce which of the 13 cities are finalists this spring. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Fross
SPORTSWRITER: TEARING DOWN ASTRODOME WOULD HELP HOUSTON ‘MOVE ON’ Depending on which city gets the Super Bowl in 2016, Houston will be vying with either Miami or San Francisco to host the big game in 2017, reports Culturemap’s Chris Baldwin, and Houston’s in great shape to put together an attractive proposal — but there’s still one thing standing in the way: “When the Astrodome opened in 1965, it deserved its Eighth Wonder of the World moniker. It screamed innovation. Now, it screams . . . embarrassment,” Baldwin writes: “There have been more than enough multi-million studies. There is no need to put off a decision yet again. Sometimes, the simplest choice, the most obvious choice, is the best one. Put together a demolition crew. . . . This isn’t Fenway Park. It’s not Wrigley Field. It’s not that old Yankee Stadium that went through all those remodels. It’s a relic that long ago lost its last bit of charm.” And if you want to save the “rotting giant,” Baldwin suggests, you’re “showing as much sense as someone featured on Hoarders.” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT TO RENAME THE HOUSTON ASTROS “Astros’ owner is considering changing their name and uniform once they join the AL? The lack of tradition I believe hurts a sports franchise. Alright, Swampies…let the names begin; The Houston Hurricanes?” [Dana-X, commenting on Headlines: IAH Expansion; Brazos River Battle]
How’s the street surfing in your neighborhood?
Photo: Flickr user jarrod-drew, via The High on the Hog Blog