The family of the late judge Roy Hofheinz is suing the University of Houston for allegedly breaching its contract as the school attempts to rename the Hofheinz Pavilion basketball arena, according to a press release from the Hofheinz family.
The family is requesting an injunction from a judge to stop UH from stripping "Hofheinz" from the building's name, which it has had for more than forty years.
“When the University was unable to finish its new athletic field house, [Hofheinz] provided funds to cover over one-third of the construction cost," the family's attorney, John Raley, said in the news release. "There was only one condition on the donation: for once, something in Houston that he helped build would bear his name. The University agreed, took his money, spent it, and now wants to break their agreement. That is illegal and, as any fair minded Texan can see, simply wrong."
In November, when UH announced its $60 million renovation plan for the basketball arena, it also announced that an anonymous donor who chipped in a solid $20 million would now have the facility's naming rights.
“We’re not sure how that name is going to unfold, but it will no longer be called Hofheinz Pavilion, so we're referring to this project as our Basketball Arena Renovation Project," Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Hunter Yurachek said after the project was announced, according to UH's student newspaper, the Daily Cougar.
This apparently came as a shock to the Hofheinz family. In 1969, the lawsuit says, UH asked Hofheinz's charitable foundation to donate $1,500,000 for “the acquisition, installation, construction, support, or maintenance of improvements, buildings, plant facilities, equipment and property of every nature and kind...useful...to the University of Houston."
However, the lawsuit alleges that the contract for that donation required UH to name its new field house the "Hofheinz Pavilion." UH agreed, and in 1970 the arena was dedicated in the Hofheinz name. A plaque was placed on the building to commemorate the occasion.
The lawsuit claims things only went downhill from there:
"Through the years, the University of Houston has diluted the importance of Hofheinz’s memory. It sold the naming rights of the court and locker rooms inside the Hofheinz Pavilion. It failed to provide proper maintenance. It even allowed the Hofheinz plaque to deteriorate into a graffiti-covered embarrassment."
We reached out to UH but have not received a response. We'll update this post if we do.
[Update]: 5:13 p.m.
Here's the statement UH sent us:
The University of Houston appreciates and celebrates the generosity of all its donors and complies with the donors’ intent and restrictions set forth in gift agreements. The petition in intervention filed today by several foundations claiming to be successors to the donor was in response to the University’s filing of a standard petition to dissolve the trust as we have fulfilled its terms. The University is grateful for the Hofheinz family’s contributions on behalf of the University, however, in this matter disagrees with its position regarding the duration of the naming rights as well as many of the facts they have alleged. The University has been in discussions with the Hofheinz family and, though it disagrees with the family’s position, has sought an amicable resolution.
Here's the Hofheinz family's full complaint:
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.