Houston Aeros: What happened to Houston's former ice hockey team 10 years ago?

On Tuesday, it was announced the bid to build a new stadium in Tempe, Arizona for the Arizona Coyotes NHL team was rejected. Now, many people are enjoying the possibility of a new NHL team returning to Houston after the Houston Aeros played their last year in 2013.

The Houston Aeros team franchise played from 1994 to 2013, but what happened to Space City’s former beloved team 10 years ago?

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Who were the Houston Aeros?

The Aeros were an ice hockey team in the International Hockey League (IHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). They played at The Summit (renamed Compaq Center in 1998) from 1994 to 2003, and the Toyota Center from 2003 to 2013.

The Aeros were an expansion franchise with IHL, a minor league franchise, in 1994. They became a dominant force in the IHL towards the end of the 1990s.

In 2001, they joined the AHL after the IHL filed for bankruptcy and the team became affiliated with the Minnesota Wilds.

Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune. St. Paul, MN., Monday, 3/7/2005. Houston Aeros vs Grand Rapids Griffins. (left to right) Houston Aeros Derek Boogaard, Kikko Koivu and Mark Cullen waited for the start of the game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. (Photo

The team moved to the Toyota Center before the start of the 2003-04 season and the Minnesota Wilds bought majority ownership of the Aeros.

The team qualified for the playoffs eight times in their last 10 seasons.

What happened to the Houston Aeros?

In short terms, high rent.

The owner of the Aeros was faced with disputes with former Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander over their sharing of the Summit Arena. Alexander wanted to break the lease he had with Watson, but Watson blocked the move saying Alexander should hold the lease agreement they had which expired in 2003.

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The two agreed to a deal to give them equal control over a new building to replace the aging one, but the notion was rejected by voters in 1999. However, Alexander reached his own agreement with the City of Houston to build the Toyota Center in 2001.

After the lease agreement with the Rockets and Aeros was up in 2003, the city was set to sell the Compaq Center to Lakewood Church. Due to this, the Aeros were forced to move into the Toyota Center and pay the Rockets rent on a three-year lease.

Houston Aeros goalie Johan Holmqvist, right, knocks the puck away from the net with Utah Grizzlies Rob Valicevic in on the play during the first period Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003, in Houston. (Photo by Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images) (Pho

Watson sold the majority ownership of the Aeros to Minnesota Sports and Entertainment (MS&E), the parent company of the Minnesota Wild. Watson kept 10% of the share to pay for increased costs.

The cost of the Aeros’ rent payment to the Rockets increased after the first agreement between the two teams expired. Watson nearly relocated the team in 2006 and after negotiations, a new 7-year agreement was reached and ran through the 2012-13 season.

The Aeros ended up paying one of the highest rents of any AHL franchise.


Alexander wanted to use the 28 Aeros’ home games to host concerts by the 2012-13 season.  Rockets’ owner Alexander demanded a 550 percent increase in the Aeros rent if they wanted to stay at the Toyota Center.

On April 18, 2013, MS&E decided the Aeros would leave the Toyota Center and relocate to the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The Aeros played their final game on May 4, 2013, in a 7–0 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in a game during the opening round of the 2013 Calder Cup playoffs. 

#CoyotestoHouston? Not so soon.

Now that the Tempe, Arizona voters denied the proposition to build a new entertainment district in the city so the Arizona Coyotes would have a new arena. The team signed a three-year agreement to play their games at Mullet Arena at Arizona State University on February 10, 2022, as a temporary home arena. This means the tea will not immediately relocate and will play at Mullett Arena for the 2023-24 NHL season.

Though, what will become of the team afterward and if they will end up moving to Houston, remains to be seen.