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Tuesday, March 7, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 110

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Opportunity to help keep Rockets in town is at www.saveourrockets.com

Sports Opinion

Rohith Nandagiri

I have often said that the two of the happiest moments of my life happened inside that little building on Edloe.

The Summit, as it was called before being renamed Compaq Center, was home to some of the best moments for a lot of people.


Photo courtesy of the Houston Rockets


The city of Houston is in danger of losing the opportunity to gather more memories of the Rockets, like the ones made by former Cougars Clyde Drexler (left) and Hakeem Olajuwon (right) in the past.

For me, it was when I graduated from high school in The Summit and later when the Houston Rockets defeated the Orlando Magic in game four of the NBA Finals for their second consecutive championship. These events happened about a month apart.

But there is a chance we may lose the Rockets. Dreams of another world championship are about to vanish if the Rockets cannot get an arena referendum passed. The first referendum was shot down by the voters by a wide margin.

Now a new effort has begun by the Rockets and the Houston Sports Authority to put another arena deal on the table. But apart from that, a loyal band of Rockets supporters have taken to the Internet to pledge their undying devotion to a team which has given us so much to be thankful for.

The Web site is www.saveourrockets.com and it was founded in February by a couple of people. One of them is Jeff Balke, a UH graduate who took the initiative to do the work and literally save our Rockets. 

Balke, a journalism major, has gotten more publicity than he could have imagined.

"In the first month alone we had 80,000 hits," Balke said. "We have had a lot of out-of-town people e-mail me and hundreds of e-mails requesting the chance to volunteer."

The Web site has no affiliation with the Rockets or the city of Houston, which makes this effort all the more remarkable. It proves that fans do have an impact on professional sports teams and that teams need fan support. There is no doubt in my mind that Balke and his staff could be looked upon as heroes in a few years.

Their first task to execute an exit poll next Tuesday during the primaries. They need about 50 volunteers and anyone can help. You can reach the staff at (713) 880-3733 and you can access the e-mail address on the Web site. They are requesting help from all the Universities in the state. It would be nice to have a contingent from the University which produced the best player to ever wear a Rockets jersey -- Hakeem Olajuwon.

The inception of the fan-site is interesting. Balke writes for the Rockets' fan-site, Clutchcity.net. He wrote a column admonishing Rockets' fans for not doing more to help the team stay here. But he felt a bit hypocritical saying this and not doing anything himself. So he created saveourrockets.com. 

"The people of Houston are enormously caring. They just needed something to get behind like this," said Balke. "The biggest issue is education of the voters on the issues and getting people to vote."

There might be a vote on the new referendum sometime this year. The Rockets and the sports authority met last week to iron out some details on what would be part of this new deal. 

Last time, Rockets owner Les Alexander put up an unheard amount of his own money. He was willing to put in from $60 million to $100 million of his own money on the new arena. Very few other cities with new arenas had that to work with.

With other cities courting the Rockets, Houston may not get another shot at this. It is time to look at the facts and vote responsibly. But the first thing to do is visit the Web site at www.saveourrockets.com.
 

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