SBJ/December 8 - 14, 2003/Facilities

Finalists for arena project manager ready to go to work on Tulsa time

Tulsa, Okla., officials looking for a project manager for a planned 18,000-seat downtown arena were choosing from among three finalists last week.

Turner Construction and two locally formed joint ventures, Tetra Tech FHC and Tulsa Vision, composed of Manhattan Construction and Flintco, were vying for the job.

Tulsa has four arenas, including on-campus facilities at the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University. All four, however, have fewer than 11,000 permanent seats, not enough to attract major sporting events such as the NCAA basketball tournaments, said John Scott, director of the Tulsa Convention Center.

An architect and construction firm will be selected in early January. Scott said the project manager could also win the general contractor job. A 1-cent increase in the Tulsa County sales tax, starting Jan. 1, is financing the $183 million project, which includes renovating the convention center.

Scott said 12 to 15 architects submitted requests for qualification. The "short list" should be known by Thursday. Presentations from those finalists are scheduled for Jan. 6-7 with a decision expected Jan. 8.

"They want to move pretty quickly on this," said Ellerbe Becket's Stuart Smith. "This is a big project, so you can imagine everybody is jumping on it. We're just waiting to see if we made the final cut."

The city hopes to break ground in early 2005, with an opening targeted for the first six months of 2007.

The new arena will replace Tulsa Arena, home to the Central Hockey League Oilers and Arena Football 2 Talons. Those tenants are expected to move to the new facility.

Tulsa Arena, a 9,000-seater built in 1964 and part of the convention complex, has never been renovated, Scott said, and does not have premium seating. It will be converted to a ballroom and meeting space. The new facility won't be part of the convention center but will be near it.

Scott said residents should have no problem supporting the bigger building. "Within a 150-mile radius there are 4.8 million people," he said. "That includes Oklahoma City, but also northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. We have a really good population base."

TICKET TALK: The trend toward online ticket auctions and season-ticket exchanges will be among topics discussed at the 25th annual International Ticketing Association conference Jan. 13-16 in Philadelphia.

"Secondary Ticket Markets for Sports and Stadiums — Resale Programs, Online Transfers/Exchanges and Return for Donation" will use the San Francisco Giants' Double Play Ticket Window, where season-ticket holders resell unused tickets, and Ticket Relay, a ticket e-mail service, as examples. Box office managers also will examine a popular Internet auction site during "Protect and Grow Your Business — eBay as a Tool."

Staples Center in Los Angeles used its own Web site earlier this year to conduct what is believed to be the first online ticket auction by a pro sports facility. Tickets in the first five rows were offered to the highest bidders for last June's Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight fight. The arena coordinated the program with Ticketmaster.

Brenda Tinnen, senior vice president for Staples Center operator AEG Facilities, supports the concept and said the arena may do it again in the future.

"It's no secret that the top tickets end up in the hands of the brokers," she said. "Our guarantee for the fight was high. We were taking the financial risk, so we wanted control of that prime inventory rather than having it show up on eBay. We made it more of a package with hospitality and an autographed boxing glove."

Bidders were willing to pay much more than face value, Tinnen added. "From a facility standpoint, it was great because you see basically what the real value is. You can take a look at eBay and see what all the Laker tickets are going for. For the Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley fight, on the day of the event, a pair of tickets in the first 10 rows were going for $60,000. That means someone else is making a profit to the tune of $55,000. The MGM Grand had to make a huge guarantee for that fight. You know someone is going to benefit; it might as well be whoever's at risk."

Intix plans facility tours of two Philadelphia arenas, Wachovia Center and Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University, both managed by Global Spectrum. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor, will deliver the Jan. 13 keynote address.

INSIDE PITCH: Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, as has been the case with most modern Major League Baseball venues, will feature a climate-controlled

The outfield restaurant at Philadelphia’s new ballpark echoes the Chop House at Turner Field in Atlanta.
dining site for fans who don't have access to sit-down restaurants reserved for premium-ticket holders.

The newly named High and Inside Pub in the ballpark's upper deck will provide an air-conditioned location with seating for 120 people, said Aramark Regional VP Jack O'Brien.

"This is the Phillies' way of creating destinations throughout the ballpark for the everyday fan," he said. "It's not often that every fan has a club of sorts to go through."

The team and concessionaire also took a cue from Aramark's successful outfield Chop House at Turner Field in Atlanta by creating a two-level, open-air restaurant and bar in left field to be officially named later. Right now, it's called the Scoreboard restaurant, because the 100-seat upstairs portion will be below the Daktronics scoreboard.

O'Brien said the new title will be "tied in with the history of the Phillies," similar to Ashburn Alley, the 50,000-square-foot outdoor entertainment area in the outfield concourse named for former Phillies player and broadcaster Richie Ashburn.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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