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Volume 21 No. 1
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A Hunt-Holder bid for Braves work could make some history

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Don Muret
Trivia question: When was the last time one general contractor built two major league stadiums that opened in the same calendar year in the same market?

Answer: Never, according to SportsBusiness Journal research. But that could change next month.

An interesting scenario is shaping up in Atlanta, where Hunt Construction and its local partner, Holder Construction, could set themselves apart in sports development history.

The same two firms that won the job to construct the NFL Falcons’ new $1.2 billion stadium in downtown Atlanta are now competing to build the MLB Braves’ $672 million ballpark in Cobb County, industry sources said. Both facilities are targeting 2017 to open.

Proposals are due May 8, and a selection is set for the end of May, according to the request-for-proposal issued by Cobb County officials.

Ken Johnson, Hunt Construction’s executive vice president and Eastern division manager in the firm’s Indianapolis office, stopped short of saying Hunt and Holder are pursuing the Braves’ project together. Last week, they were still evaluating whether to form a partnership separate from their allegiance for the Falcons’ project, Johnson said. Should they join forces for a second time in Atlanta, though, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Hunt would propose as the lead contractor supported by Holder, he said. Their roles are flipped on the Falcons’ project, with Holder taking the lead.

Hunt Construction worked on Comerica Park and Ford Field at the same time, but no construction company has opened NFL and MLB stadiums in the same city in the same year.

“We have lots of capacity to do the Braves,” Johnson said. “We’ve opened multiple ballparks in the same year: Comerica Park and AT&T Park [in 2000]. In Detroit, we were building Ford Field [which opened in 2002] at the same time across the street from Comerica.”

But never has there been an opportunity for one group of contractors to complete the construction of NFL and MLB stadiums in the same year in the same market.

Some have come close to the stadium double-dip. Clark Construction, for example, handled a stadium/arena twosome — building both FedEx Field (NFL) and Verizon Center (NBA/NHL), with both venues opening in Washington, D.C., in 1997. And the Sharp-Kidde-Webb joint venture built two stadiums side-by-side in Kansas City, but not in the same calendar year: Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL Chiefs, opened in August 1972; eight months later, in April 1973, Kauffman Stadium debuted for the MLB Royals.

In Atlanta, the Hunt-Holder proposal faces competition from other national sports builders that have strong ties to the city. Skanska, builder of both the Georgia Dome and Turner Field, is teaming with Clark. Another bidder is the “American Builders” team of Mortenson and Barton Malow, builder of Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves, the MLB Braves’ Class AAA affiliate. Atlanta-based Brasfield & Gorrie and New South are also part of the American Builders team.

Turner Construction also is proposing for the Braves’ project, doing so on its own without a local partner, confirmed Shannon Hines, Turner’s Atlanta-based senior vice president.

> FULL BENCH: Delaware North Sportservice is back at full strength and then some after expanding its business development group in Buffalo.

John Wentzell, Sportservice’s president since January 2013, recently hired longtime ticketing executive Jeff Kline as senior vice president of business development. Kline served as president of Veritix from 2007 to 2012, and before that he was an executive vice president for Ticketmaster for 13 years.

Kline’s appointment came a few weeks after Brett Fuller came on board as a vice president of business development (SportsBusiness Journal, March 10-16). Fuller serves in the same capacity as Tim Maloney, who filled the void alone in business development after Barry Freilicher moved from Sportservice over to Delaware North’s parks and resorts division last summer.

Wentzell, Kline, Fuller and Maloney are all on the road pursuing new business and keeping in contact with existing clients.

Sportservice recently submitted a proposal to run the food service at Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. Aramark currently has the contract. “We are anxious to see where it goes; it’s playing out now that the regular season is over,” Wentzell said.

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