SBJ/February 24 - March 2, 2003/For The Record

Arena takes national spotlight

The Arena at Gwinnett Center opened earlier this month and did so on a national stage: The Georgia Force, the facility's anchor tenant, hosted defending Arena Football League champion San Jose in a game broadcast by NBC.

Arena partners Brand Bank, Cintas, Charter Communications, Toyota Mall of Georgia and United Distributors are expecting 360-degree exposure inside the building thanks to a Mitsubishi Diamond Vision matrix ribbon board. The scoreboard is part of a $2.2

Arena at Gwinnett Center opened last week, two months ahead of original schedule.
million technology package that arena owner Gwinnett County struck with Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc., a Georgia-based division of Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corp., and is believed to be only the second scoreboard of its kind at this level of sports competition, according to industry experts. A similar product was installed at the new Ford Center in Oklahoma City last year.

Construction of the facility was accelerated by two months when the AFL announced last year that it was moving the start of its season from April to February. The move added $500,000 to the cost of the project and meant the opening AFL game would be staged without the benefit of a soft opening for the arena.

The Force will share the venue with an ECHL franchise being relocated from Mobile, Ala. That team, the Gwinnett Gladiators, is scheduled to debut this fall after sitting out the 2002-03 season. The Force and Gladiators each have a five-year lease with a five-year option. Gwinnett County will receive $8,000 per game in base rent, 40 percent of net concessions revenue and a $250 per game box office fee. The teams will keep all remaining revenue. Parking is free.

SMG has a contract to operate the facility through 2006. The company also is handling the sale of naming rights to the arena, along with Cleveland-based Sports Facilities Marketing Group. Revenue from such a sale would go into the arena's operating fund.

Suite leases range in annual cost from $50,000 to $70,000 and include tickets to all events at the arena. As of early this month, 31 of the 36 suites had been leased. Annual cost for a club seat ranges from $1,500 to $1,750 and includes tickets to Force and Gladiators games. Of the 1,300 available club seats, 40 percent had been sold as of early this month.

The arena is part of a $90 million expansion project for the local convention center that added 70,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space as well as 3,000 parking spaces for that facility.

The Arena at Gwinnett Center

City: Duluth, Ga.
Tenants: AFL Georgia Force, ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators
Owner/operator: Gwinnett County/SMG
Architect: Rosser International
General contractor: Holder Construction Co.
No. of seats: 11,200
No. of suites/club seats: 36, plus two party suites/1,300
Projected cost: $65 million
Funding: An existing hotel tax increased to 7 cents from 6 cents in the summer of 2001 to support a 20-year county-issued bond.
Concessionaire: Proof of the Pudding
Pouring rights: Coca-Cola
Scoreboard provider: Mitsubishi Diamond Vision, with White Way scoring technology
Seat provider: Irwin Seating Co.
Floor provider: Sportexe
Ice provider: Cimco
Opening day: Feb. 16

Click here for a listing of subcontractors on The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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