Best Large Venue - 2012
With a capacity of about 2,750, Arena Theatre is the redheaded stepchild of Houston music venues. The part of Houston that doesn't use the Southwest Freeway as their major commuter artery tends to forget it's even over there by Sharpstown Mall, but it's been there — albeit not continually operating — since 1965. (The office towers adjoining the theater were built in the early '80s.) But even with all the competition it has these days, the Arena manages to keep the lights on most nights out of the month. Its calendar this past summer was crowded with music across a wide variety of styles, including R&B, blues, country, rap, Latin and rock, plus comedy, boxing and MMA fighting. The seats are comfortable, the concessions are reasonable (even the cocktails), the sound is clean, the rotating stage never ceases to be a novelty and the gallery of posters for past shows in the walkway leading from the parking garage is second to none. Fun fact: Late comedian Bob Hope was one of the Arena's original investors.