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Suns vie for downtown arena

The Arizona Republic

But the proposed Rio Nuevo structure has other suitors


The Arizona Republic

Looking to expand their role in the entertainment business, the Phoenix Suns are among the finalists hoping to manage a proposed arena in downtown Tucson.

However, the competition is stiff. The other suitors have experience with major construction projects across the country.

The Suns have teamed with Phoenix-based Arena Management & Construction, which hopes to build the facility on the southeast corner of Congress Street and Interstate 10. They and the three other development teams will make presentations Wednesday to the Tucson Convention Center selection committee.

In addition to building and managing the arena, the winner would be responsible for finding a major tenant such as a minor league sports team, city officials said.

“We are looking for them to be the backbone of the financing. Until we get a real proposal in hand, we do not know what the city involvement will be,” said Rich Singer, Tucson Convention Center director.

Singer hopes to break ground within two years. The arena would replace the roughly 8,500-seat facility inside the convention center, which likely would be used for convention space. The new arena, which could have more than 10,000 seats, is part of the city’s Rio Nuevo downtown revitalization plan.

The Suns’ sister company, Sports & Entertainment Services, would book shows in the Tucson arena. Sports & Entertainment Services already schedules events in Phoenix’s America West Arena, Bank One Ballpark and Dodge Theatre.

Managing the Tucson arena would give the Suns an upper hand in securing concerts and family shows at America West, which has been in competition with the Phoenix Coyotes since they moved to the Glendale Arena last December and began booking similar shows there.

“We book a lot of nonbasketball events at America West Arena. We will be able to control more events by having both venues,” said Robert Sarver, the basketball team’s new owner.

While Sarver is from Tucson and the Suns original owners are from the Old Pueblo, the team is going against some development giants. The other players are:

• Los Angeles-based AEG, the sports and entertainment unit of Anschutz Corp., which also is working on a $1 billion development around Staples Center. AEG also owns the Los Angeles Kings and several Major League Soccer teams.

• Northbrook, Ill.-based International Facilities Group, whose staff has worked on projects like the United Center in Chicago; the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.; and the Pepsi Center in Denver.

• Dallas-based Garfield Traub Development, which is going by “Team Zocalo.” The company has developed public schools in Los Angeles, a 7,000-seat performing arts center in San Jose, Calif., and a convention center hotel in Overland Park, Kan.

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