Now leasing the property used for its 40,000 plus congregation, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church plans to buy the former home of the Houston Rockets.
The city of Houston is dealing with an $11.9 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and has a projected gap for next year at $99.5 million. The city’s plan is to sell the former Compaq Center and the surrounding seven acres to Lakewood Church for $7.5 million to help make up the deficit.
In 2001, Lakewood signed a 30-year lease paying over $11 million, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle:
In the article, the city’s Director of Real Estate, Bob Christy, says the sale is a fair deal for the city and “makes some sense given that this property is tied up and off the books for many, many years to come.” Christy says the property has been appraised by two independent appraisers and valued at $7.7 million, given the lease.
According to the church’s website Lakewood has invested more than $95 million in renovating the facility from a cavernous basketball arena into a worship facility and says it is now the largest regularly-used worship center in the United States.
An online article by Texas Construction magazine says, “Irvine Team managed the 1.5 million man-hour, 30-month design and construction project that turned the former 400,000 sq.-ft. home of the Houston Rockets into a 600,000 sq.-ft. state-of-the-art-facility for world-renowned Lakewood Church. T Irvine Team’s proprietary design and construction strategy allowed for the history-making development of an expanded facility encompassing a 16,000-seat sanctuary, a best-in-class art-media center to support Lakewood’s television ministry, classroom and support spaces for Lakewood’s 5,000-strong Children’s Ministry, a book store, food service facilities and a multi-million-dollar central plant to cool and heat the facilities.”
The Houston Chronicle article quotes Mary Aaron, a real estate appraiser who specializes in religious facilities, who says, “Lakewood Church put a phenomenal amount of money into the facility after the lease was initially structured, and it’s really not fair that someone else would get the benefit of that. ... Converting it back to a stadium-oriented facility would probably cost as much or more than it took to turn it into a church, and right now there are probably not very many organizations that would be willing to step forward and do that.”