Sears Centre Controversy

Arena opponents fell flat in their attempt to convince officials in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates that a proposed $60 million sports and entertainment center is a bad idea.

Village officials voted March 14th to approve a feasibility study that favors moving forward with the Sears Centre, despite warnings from a veteran facility exec.

Harry Pappas, executive director of Rosemont’s Allstate Arena and Rosemont Theatre, told Pollstar he was asked by opponents of the 11,000-capacity facility to go over the feasibility study. He has said he isn’t concerned about potential competition from the new venue, which will be located about 20 miles from the 19,000-seat Allstate Arena.

After going over the study, Pappas wrote an open letter to the village’s Daily Herald outlining his concern that the project is doomed to fail. He also included letters from promoters Clear Channel Entertainment, Feld Entertainment and VEE Corp. saying they wouldn’t be doing business at the Sears Centre.

The reason? The study outlined add-ons to ticket prices in addition to the village’s proposed 6 percent entertainment tax. Specifically, costs would include a $2.50 facility fee, $3 parking fee and $1.50 box office fee.

“It’s too expensive for the patron and too expensive for the promoter,” Pappas said.

The arena, tentatively scheduled to open as early as 2006, is to be financed by $50 million in general obligation bonds pitched in by Hoffman Estates, along with a first mortgage on the arena. The bonds are to be repaid through revenue generated by the facility.

It is projected to draw 750,000 people for more than 135 shows a year. The study reportedly lists Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the Harlem Globetrotters as potential events.

Pappas said he works with those clients, so he was wondering how Sears Centre reps got that idea.

Detractors say the arena is a bad idea because taxpayers will be stuck with the debt should the facility bomb. Village officials have previously said the plan has built-in safeguards should the revenues be less than stellar.

Pappas and others are not convinced.

“I’ve been an executive director for 15 years and I’ve worked there for 25 years,” he said. “[Village officials] couldn’t even comprehend when I tried to explain it to them.”

He added that Steve Hyman, who will operate the venue and book acts, is “selling a bill of goods to these people.”

In regard to Pappas’ letter, Hyman was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, “Who that came from and its obvious intent speaks volumes.”