Free Rockets tickets for Houston City Council -- but not for you

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Houston City Council members get free Rockets tickets -- courtesy of taxpayers (KTRK)

There are four seats in a Toyota Center suite available for Houston City Council members so they -- or someone they choose -- can watch Rockets games from some of the best center court seats in the house.

The seats come with free parking, as well as a buffet and soft drinks.

And it's all paid for by Houston taxpayers as part of the $20 million that came from city coffers in 2001 to purchase the land on which the arena now stands.

The rules say that the council members are supposed to use the tickets for "promotional and economic development purposes" or to honor individuals, civic and volunteer groups.

Councilman Jerry Davis has been the most frequent visitor to the suite. He's watched eight Rockets games, including the hard-to-get playoff games. On game seven of the playoffs, he was scheduled to be there with his son.

If the game seven tickets were on the market, they would have a value of as much as $1,750 per ticket, according to ticket broker Kent Maree with TicketsHere.com.

"That's a great suite," he said, noting the demand for game seven tickets at the Toyota Center was at a level that he's never seen.

"The prices are outrageous," Maree said. "It's crazy."

Davis has no problem taking the tickets. he said.

"I go to those games," Davis told ABC-13. "I meet people in the city doing business and I go with my son. I've been working all day and it's an opportunity to take my son and spend time with him. It's a great opportunity for my son to meet people from around the country (in town to do business in Houston)."

Davis is breaking no rules by going to the games. And he's not the only city council member who has been cheering the Rockets winning streak.

He was at the Rockets game five playoff game, for example, but so was Councilman Larry Green and Councilman Robert Gallegos, who has taken in four games this season.

Other frequent city council visitors to the Toyota Center for Rockets games are Dave Martin, David Robinson, Dwight Boykins, and Jack Christie, who have also each taken in four visits.

City Hall has the suite to wine and dine people considering bringing convention business to Houston. On the game five playoff, ABC-13 was told that city council members were mingling with meeting planners from other parts of the country.

One questionable omission in the ticket records reviewed by ABC-13: City policy says council member are supposed to sign in guests in, so taxpayers know who's benefiting from the free tickets. That seldom happens, records show.

Unsettling to some fans that ABDC-13 spoke to were not the times the pricey suite was used by members of council and their mysterious guests -- but the times it was empty during the Rockets season.

For 20 of the 50 Rockets games this season, council seats were not used. And for 17 of those games. not a single council member requested a ticket.

Some fans asked why a noted city employee, an Eagle Scout or a Houston taxpayer who may have liked to see the game couldn't do so as premier tickets lay fallow.

"I don't think that's fair," said Rockets fan Terry Jones, who was at the Toyota Center trying to find playoff tickets for game seven. "They should let us all go free if they go free."

Another fan, James Harrison, was also futilely trying to buy tickets last week for Sunday's game.

"I came down to purchase tickets for game seven," he said. "I want to go pretty damn bad. They're all sold out here."

He couldn't find any on any of the website selling sports tickets, either.

"I don't know what I'm going to do now," he said. "Good for the city council. For me, not so good."

Records show that Mayor Annise Parker did not use the city suite to watch the Rockets this season. Neither did council members C.O. 'Brad' Bradford, Stephen Costello, Michael Kubosh or Oliver Pennington.
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