Q&A: Janis Burke, Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO, talks World Cup, NHL, Houston impact

The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority was established in 1997 to manage preparations for financing, designing, building, and running a planned new baseball stadium for the Houston Astros.

The HCHSA oversees not just the baseball stadium, now known as Minute Maid Park, but also several of Houston’s major sports venues, such as Shell Energy Stadium, NRG Stadium, and Toyota Center. Aside from operations, the sports authority promotes the region’s sporting events.

Janis Burke was appointed CEO of the sports authority in 2006, becoming the third and first woman to do so. She was inducted into the 2024 Sports Events and Tourism Association Hall of Fame in March.

Community Impact sat down with Burke on April 2 to discuss the sports authority’s role in the local economy, upcoming international events and sports development in the region.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q&A: Janis Burke, Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO, talks World  Cup, NHL, Houston impact | Community Impact
What impact has the sports authority had on the local economy through its sports-related activities and events?

We started a program called, “Buy Houston. By Houston,” which allows vendors to go to our website, sign up for whatever product they offer and tell us if they’re a minority-owned business or a women-owned business. We track all of that so we can give a report at the end of major events. For example, the college football playoffs, which happened in January of this year, a little over $3 million worth of business went out to the local community.

Can we anticipate Houston to host another Super Bowl in the near future?

Janis Burke - Harris County - Houston Sports Authority | LinkedIn

Houston will certainly host again. It’s only a matter of when. You need your NFL club to fully support and collaborate because it’s a little bit of an inside game with the NFL owners who all vote and choose. So, sure, we’ve been talking with the Texans about when is the best moment. I believe everyone would love to see another Super Bowl in Houston.

Is there an update from Major League Baseball on the city’s candidacy for the World Baseball Classic 2026?

We haven’t, but I’m pleased, as I am with every bid. I anticipate we’ll hear back before the end of April. That is what we have been told. I heard that Miami had around 425,000 attendees during the World Baseball Classic. Can you image that in the spring, followed by the World Cup in the summer? This will undoubtedly be our international year.

Has the sports authority heard anything about Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta’s efforts to bring the National Hockey League to town?

Q&A: Janis Burke, Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO, talks World  Cup, NHL, Houston impact

We believe that everyone is really interested in bringing an NHL club to Houston. Those conversations are taking place within the NHL commission. I believe our community would be an excellent home for an ice hockey franchise. We had the Houston Aeros for many years. Ice hockey is a fast-paced activity, and we have a wide range of sporting interests around here. Cricket is another sport with a large following. Any sort of sport thrives in Houston—first and foremost due to our large population, but also because we are a massive sports town. We enjoy our athletics.

What influence can we expect from large-scale global events like the FIFA 2026 World Cup on local communities?

We aim to help the game thrive while also focusing on sustainability and human rights. We want to use the World Cup as a platform for constructive change. We want to expand the game to include children who are unable to play because they do not live in the suburbs or cannot drive there. We want to start an urban league for those kids.

We also want to make our fan festival a little distinct. We want to relocate into [East Downtown], which—with the Hwy. 59 project going underground and a park connecting downtown to EaDo—we believe is the next.

We wish to use the event to leave a legacy in this emerging community.
Are there any other future events, contests, or projects that the authority is really pleased about?

Rugby World Cups for men and women are on the way. It has been awarded to the United States, and we aspire to be considered for it. Cricket is another sport on our radar because we have a large community here who would like to see professional cricket. The final Olympic qualifying event for BMX will take place in 2028. The 2028 UCI BMX World Championships will be hosted at the world’s largest bike park in Houston.

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