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City on verge of design contract for Tucson Arena

Citizen Staff Writer



The city of Tucson expects to sign a contract next week with the designer of the American Airlines Arena in Miami and the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., to design the $130 million Tucson Arena.

The city is negotiating with 360 Architecture of Kansas City after selecting it from a short list of three national architecture firms with arena backgrounds, said Tommy Obermaier, interim director of the Tucson Convention Center.

“Their body of work and the local team they assembled elevated them to the top,” Obermaier said.

Tucson-based Swaim Associates, an architecture firm, will serve as the project coordinator and also interact with the public and other downtown projects, company President Phil Swaim said.

“We’re the ones here on a day-to-day basis,” said Swaim, whose company has been in Tucson for 40 years. “We’re very excited to get involved in downtown. A lot of people living in Tucson have never grown up around an exciting urban environment. They don’t know what they’re missing.”

Obermaier said the amount of the contract will not be disclosed until the contract is signed.

360 Architecture and the city are still negotiating the timeline for architecture services, but Obermaier anticipates starting construction in about a year. The arena is to have 10,000 to 12,000 seats, with 10 to 12 luxury boxes.

360 will start the design from scratch. The tortoise shell design proposed a couple of years ago was scrapped, Obermaier said.

George Heinlein, principal at 360 Architecture, doesn’t have a look in mind yet.

“We come into it with no preconceived ideas,” Heinlein said. “We’re looking for something rooted in the Tucson environment.”

Heinlein is familiar with Tucson because his daughter is a student at the University of Arizona.

“(The arena) has the opportunity to be part of a terrific new downtown environment and be an iconic building by itself,” Heinlein said.

The arena would be near a new 24-story, 525-room TCC hotel and revamped convention center. The intended location is just south of Congress Street, east of Interstate 10.

Heinlein singles out the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League, as a particularly significant project out of the three dozen sports facilities the firm has designed.

The firm also was involved in designing residential developments, an office building and a stadium near the arena.

“It’s been the benchmark for how to put an arena in a downtown,” Heinlein said.

360 Architecture will be responsible for the architectural designs; structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering; electrical systems; collaborating with a food services consultant; and meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Obermaier said.

The 360 Architects-designed American Airlines Arena is the home of the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association. The Sprint Center in Kansas City will host first- and second-round games in the NCAA basketball tournament this year.

360 Architects also has designed stadium renovations for the University of Oklahoma and University of Nebraska; Cisco Field, home of the Oakland Athletics baseball team; and the Mizzou Arena at the University of Missouri.

‘We come into it with no preconceived ideas. We’re looking for something rooted in the Tucson environment.’

George Heinlein, principal at 360 Architecture

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