If You Build It

Louisville, Orlando, Seattle, Sacramento and Pittsburgh are just some of the markets with arenas in their sights. If everything goes as it should, there will be a lot of new facilities springing up in the next few years.

Louisville, Ky., has had a lengthy preamble to building a new home for the University of Louisville’s roundballers, but the city’s Metro Council recently approved a revised arena financing plan.

The 23-1 decision affirms the city’s financial contribution for the $450 million downtown project, with approximately $200 million to be paid over 30 years, according to the Courier-Journal. The news comes just a week after Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson vetoed a proposal he said would endanger the arena’s future, the paper said.

Construction is set to begin in 2008, with an opening projected for 2010.

In the Steel City, Isle of Capri Casinos has agreed to front $290 million for the Mellon Arena replacement – as long as it wins Pittsburgh’s slots license. Michael Fratianni, who managed construction of the Steelers’ home, Heinz Field, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the arena project is doable if the right people are on board.

Capri’s $290 million project could come up a little short, however, according to developers of similar projects.

Brian Parker, a project manager for consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, told the paper the $290 million figure would probably only work for a smaller, bare-bones arena that began construction immediately.

Penguins officials have discussed plans for about 1,000 more seats than the 45-year-old Mellon Arena’s 17,000, along with more luxury suites, wider concourses and more concession stands and retail stores, the Post-Gazette said.

In Sacramento, Calif., the city has agreed to build a new arena for the NBA’s Kings that will cost a projected $470 million to $542 million, pending voter approval. The building would be financed largely by a countywide quarter-cent sales tax, which could bring in a projected $1.2 billion over 15 years.

Tax law stipulates that the money would have to be divided between the arena and other public projects. Voters will get to vote on the tax increase as early as November.

Under the agreement, the Kings would be responsible for the venue’s operating costs and would reap all revenues from events, food and beverage sales, parking and any naming rights deals. The city and county would be responsible for any cost overruns.

The 18,000-capacity venue could be completed by 2010.

New Jersey’s new home for the New Jersey Devils pro hockey team broke ground in October. The team pledged a $100 million letter of credit to the city of Newark. The 18,000-capacity arena could be open in time for the 2007-2008 NHL season.

In the Sunshine State, there has been an active push from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for a new home for the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Officials hope a new place to play – considerably larger than current TD Waterhouse Centre home court – would lead to a bigger slice of the area’s live entertainment pie, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Magic reportedly wants to use FedExForum, where the Memphis Grizzlies play, as a prototype for the new building.

Meanwhile, the 5,000-capacity arena at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale is scheduled to open this fall as part of the campus’ new University Center.

In Washington, a considerable amount of doubt has surrounded the Seattle SuperSonics’ future in the state following the team’s change in ownership.

But Oklahoma City-based Professional Basketball Club said it will do what it takes to keep the team in Seattle – as long as the city cooperates. The group has 12 months to work out a deal to renovate or replace KeyArena. After that, the team could be moved.

An 11,000-capacity arena for Ontario, Calif., is in the works. AEG is expected to operate the venue, and the agreement reportedly guarantees the city $1 million per year and “the lion’s share of the back-end split,” Ontario city manager Greg Devereaux told the San Bernardino Sun.

The paper said groundbreaking could start as soon as October. It will be built on an old race track at the Ontario Center, where the city purchased 202 acres for $17.5 million a decade ago, Devereaux said. He added that much of the arena’s cost will be funded by selling the 165 acres on the site that aren’t committed to the venue.

Moving away from hockey and basketball venues for a minute, a 25,000-capacity stadium for the new Red Bulls Major League Soccer team in New Jersey is one step closer to reality. The team has announced the recent sale of revenue bonds for the project. Red Bull Park is projected to open in 2008 as a centerpiece of redevelopment in the town of Harrison, which borders Newark.

The stadium will be jointly owned by AEG and Red Bull, which bought the team from AEG in March. The Red Bulls, formerly known as the MetroStars, have played at 78,000-seat Giants Stadium since MLS’ inaugural 1996 season. The bond sale consisted of $30.5 million in tax-exempt bonds and $8.8 million in taxable bonds.

In news of venue projects that aren’t quite as far along in the planning process, the city of Toledo, Ohio, has estimated the cost of a new downtown arena at as much as $82 million, according to the Toledo Blade.

Facing a setback is the University of Oregon’s $160 million replacement basketball arena. Boosters involved with the project have said they think an arena will eventually be built, but it appears the project has been stalled and won’t be ready for its scheduled 2009 opening date. UO’s current home turf, McArthur Court, is 78 years old. The replacement venue’s conceptual design plans included 12,500 seats.

And just beginning to get its feet wet is the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is conducting feasibility studies for a new arena that could fit more concertgoers than the 5,500-capacity U.S. Cellular Center, according to Iowa’s KKWL News.