SBJ/November 13 - 19, 2006/Facilities

AEG has hand in NBA efforts in Seattle, KC

Anschutz Entertainment Group’s facility developer is playing a key role in the Seattle SuperSonics’ effort to remain in the Pacific Northwest at the same time AEG is trying to find a big league tenant for Sprint Center in Kansas City.

New Sonics owner Clay Bennett hired Icon Venue Group to represent the NBA club as it goes through the process of hiring a designer to plan an 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena somewhere in Seattle, according to the architectural and design services RFP obtained by SportsBusiness Journal.

The Romani Group principal Tim Romani and AEG President Tim Leiweke formed a joint venture and created Denver-based Icon Venue Group in 2004.

In Kansas City, AEG committed $50 million to help build and operate Sprint Center and continues to search for an NBA or NHL team to play in the arena, which opens in 11 months.

“We’re still working on it,” said Brenda Tinnen, Sprint Center’s general manager and senior vice president. “The buzz is strong and the NBA and NHL know we’re here.”

The Sonics’ Clay Bennett hired Icon Venue
Group in an effort to get out of KeyArena.

The deadline for architects interested in the Sonics’ arena project to respond is Wednesday.

A more important deadline for the Sonics is the ultimatum Bennett laid out for local leaders to have an arena finance plan in place by November 2007 or risk having the team move to Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Bennett’s hometown. The Sonics’ lease at publicly owned KeyArena expires after the 2009-10 season.

Seattle residents on Tuesday approved Initiative 91, a measure to restrict taxpayer subsidies for sports facilities, but it will take effect in Seattle only. The team has also been scouting suburban sites.

The Seattle arena RFP says the budget to build a new facility has not been determined and addresses the finance issue by stating “if legislation acceptable to the owner is not enacted during the 2007 legislative session, the arena will not be constructed.”

VEGAS UPDATE: Dreamscape Development, the Dallas-based developer that wants to build a $2.1 billion sports facility complex in Las Vegas, received good news late last month when a local task force examining the need for a new arena shortlisted its site.

Dreamscape wants to privately build a stadium and an arena for neutral-site college football and basketball games and is close to completing a deal to acquire 66 acres south of the Las Vegas strip, said Darrel Fritz, Dreamscape’s president and CEO.

The task force, composed of city and county officials, included the site among four properties it is targeting to build a new facility to replace the Thomas & Mack Center. There is no hard deadline for selecting a site, said Pat Christenson, the task force’s chairman.

Mayor Oscar Goodman and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid have publicly stated that a new arena would have to be built without spending tax dollars.

Dreamscape’s plan is to finance stadium and arena construction supported by selling condominiums and hotel rooms built next to the complex in advance. That housing would accommodate the college teams and their fans spending a weekend in Las Vegas.

The task force has pegged the cost of building a new arena at $404 million, and that figure falls into Dreamscape’s budget, Fritz said.

Dreamscape’s plan first and foremost is to build a 75,000-seat football stadium for Division I-A regular-season games, and officials plan to proceed on that project regardless of whether the task force approves their site to build an arena, Fritz said.

“The stadium remains a focal point for us,” he said.

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

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