SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Facilities

Stage flight: Texas-Arlington basketball exits the auditorium

Don Muret
A new arena opening Feb. 1 at the University of Texas at Arlington will finally usher the school’s basketball programs offstage.

When the men’s and women’s teams begin play at the $78 million College Park Center, a 6,700-seat facility on campus designed by HKS, they’ll depart Texas Hall, an auditorium where for the past 46 years they have played home games on an elevated stage. The change in venues for UT Arlington, which plays in the Southland Conference but will move to the WAC in July, is as dramatic as any that an NCAA Division I school has experienced, say officials involved in the project.

College Park Center is the new home for Texas-Arlington hoops.
Photo by: UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON
UT Arlington transitions to a state-of-the-art arena with 600 club seats, 50 courtside seats, one large hospitality suite with 72 cushioned leather seats, a center-hung video board, LED ribbon boards and a flexible event-level space. The horseshoe-shaped bowl of the arena is split into two levels, which puts it on par with big league arena designs despite its size, said David Skaggs, HKS’s project manager. “They have never had a building like this on campus,” Skaggs said.

The big league feel extends to the marketing of the arena. Legends Sales and Marketing, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, is responsible for selling the center’s naming rights and founding partners. The arena sits about a mile and a half southwest of Cowboys Stadium.

To date, Legends has sold two deals. Pepsi, which had a relationship with the school, signed a five-year extension for the arena’s pouring rights. (Aramark was awarded the arena’s concessions through its campus dining contract.) In addition, the Moritz family, owner of several high-end auto dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, gave a $750,000 gift spread over 10 years to help finance construction. In return, Moritz Dealerships gets naming rights to a plaza outside the arena plus brand exposure inside the facility, said Brad Alberts, Legends’ vice president of strategic partnerships.

Legends is pursuing founding partnerships in the hospital, banking, energy and telecommunications categories, Alberts said. For naming rights, Legends is looking for a multiyear deal valued in the low to mid-six figures annually. A donor could step up philanthropically for that deal, he said.

Carrizo Oil and Gas provided a lead gift of $5 million to jump-start the project but did not want to put its name on any spaces inside the arena, said Kristin Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the school.

Legends is working with Gregg Elkin, UT Arlington senior associate athletic director for external affairs, to sell College Park Center’s premium seats. Three weeks before the doors open, about 395 seats had been sold between the courtsides and clubs, Elkin said.

The courtside seats cost $15 a game plus a $500 annual donation to the Maverick Club, a fee covering up to four seats. Club seats, priced at $10 a game, carry a $250 donation. Fans buying those seats get access to the hospitality suite 14 rows from the floor.

Those sales are for the 2012-13 season. The school is giving away all tickets for the nine remaining men’s and women’s games this season, using those dates as soft openings, Elkin said.

TASTE OF TWITTER: The San Diego Padres turned to Twitter to get their fans’ take on local food brands that could join the concessions lineup at Petco Park this season.

Tom Garfinkel (@tomgarfinkel), the Padres’ president and chief operating officer, asked his followers for suggestions, and the same half-dozen restaurants kept popping up among the estimated 200 responses he received.

Garfinkel, other Padres’ staffers and officials from Delaware North Sportservice, the team’s food provider, will visit those eateries and taste their products before deciding which ones are best for the park.

Some local brands could be tied to sponsorships as well, similar to Filippi’s Pizza. The Padres introduced the pizzeria last year at Petco and it was received well. It is not an exclusive deal, Garfinkel said.

One change already confirmed for 2012: The old West Wind Sushi Bar on the club level behind home plate will be converted to a spot with margaritas, chips and some of the best guacamole in town, he said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.
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