In September 2003, downtown Houston welcomed its latest sports landmark, Toyota Center. The $175 million arena will seat 18,300 people for NBA/WNBA games and includes 92 luxury suites on two suite levels and 2900 club seats with access to luxury amenities.

Cast-in-place concrete was used to structure the elevated floors of the arena. The main and upper concourse levels used a 25-inch-deep, pan-joist system. Limited floor-to-floor heights below the suite levels required that these levels would be structured with ten 16-inch-thick, two-way flat plates to maximize the plenum space and ceiling heights. In some areas of the suite levels, the flat plate cantilevers over 18 feet from the supporting column line. This and many other areas of the suite levels required careful analysis and design to achieve the design goals.

An interesting challenge occurred in the design of a 120-foot-long elevated walkway connecting two areas of the suites. The extremely tight, floor-to-floor requirement necessitated the walkway be a cast-in-place concrete element. However, one side of the 8-foot-wide walkway had no column supports. The design team decided to hang this side of the walkway using concrete hangers and upturned concrete beams to achieve a structural soffit 6 inches below the finished floor. These concrete tension hanger members, while counterintuitive, provided simplified connections and an elegant structure. The suite and upper seating bowls were made of conventional precast seating units with cast-in-place raker beams.

Coupled with Minute Maid Park and Reliant Stadium, the new arena completes the cycle for Houston with three new sport facilities, and marks the Bayou City as one of the premier sports and entertainment cities in the United States.

— Dennis M. Wittry, P.E., S.E. and Matt Thiel, P.E., Walter P. Moore


  • Owner: Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, Houston
  • Architect: Morris Architects, Houston
  • Sports Design Architect: HOK Sport + Venue + Event, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Structural Engineer: Walter P. Moore, Houston
  • General Contractor: Hunt Construction, Houston
  • Concrete: Capform, Carrollton, Texas
  • Traffic Engineer: Walter P. Moore, Houston