Another NBA Plan Offered for Santa Ana

Times Staff Writer

A group of Newport Beach businessmen hopes to build a sports arena and bring a professional basketball team to Santa Ana, but city officials said Friday that they will stick with earlier plans for the Westdome Arena.

Newport Beach developer Chris Racine said that he and two other businessmen, developer Roy Carver III and attorney Bruce Chandler, want to build an arena within an office, hotel and commercial development on farmland at MacArthur Boulevard and Main Street in Santa Ana owned by the Sakioka family.

Talking to Two Teams

“We are partners in an effort to build a sports arena and bring an NBA franchise to Orange County,” Racine said. He added that his group is negotiating with two National Basketball Assn. teams but would not identify them.


Carver said the partners expect to submit a plan for the development to the city within about 30 days. He stressed that even if no agreement could be reached for an arena, the partners would try to go ahead with the office and commercial development.

But City Manager Robert C. Bobb said: “We have a deal with the Westdome partners and we will not renege on it. Thus far, they’ve performed at every level of this development. If they were to fail at any point, we would not hesitate to take them out of that process.”

The four-man Westdome Partnership--Allan Durkovic, Ronald McMahon, Donald Oliphant and Robert Osbrink--signed a preliminary agreement with the city in July and now are putting together financing for the $35-million project. The arena, which would be built at Flower Street and Civic Center Drive where Santa Ana Stadium now stands, is to be financed with industrial development bonds.

Racine met with the Santa Ana city staff Friday morning to discuss the project. Deputy City Manager Rex Swanson said Racine was asked to provide information about him and his partners that the city routinely asks of any potential developers, including previous developments, banking records, confidential financial statements and an outline of the proposal.

Sakioka representatives declined to comment.

Racine suggested that the Westdome proposal was unfeasible, primarily because its downtown location would cause traffic jams and parking problems. In addition, he said, there is a “stigma” attached to downtown Santa Ana at night.

Bobb said he considers downtown to be “the preferable site” because patrons could use the Civic Center parking, which goes largely unused at night, and because an arena would spur other development in that area.


He said he would like to see three major business centers in the city: downtown, Main Place Santa Ana (the $400-million expansion of Fashion Square) and the South Main Street area at MacArthur and Main. The latter two will be developed by sheer market pressure, he said, while the downtown area will need the boost that an arena could provide.

As to safety of the downtown area, Bobb said he has no qualms about walking through the area at any time. With the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Police Department located in the Civic Center and Santa Ana’s foot patrol officers on duty 24 hours a day, “there is no safer place in all of Orange County,” he said. “I feel more comfortable there than I would in some of the suburbs.”

Durkovic also said that he did not “see any stigma at all.”

Durkovic met with city officials Friday, as he does every Friday afternoon, and the rival developers were discussed.

He said Racine’s proposal was “a concern” but stressed that the city and his partnership “have a deal and we’re on schedule for a successful development.”

Durkovic also argued that traffic from Westdome wouldn’t clog surrounding neighborhoods as opponents claim. “Frankly, I’m more concerned with his site and the impact it will have on the 55 freeway. You’re going to have cars stacked up there after a game,” he contended.

Racine, who previously talked to officials in Anaheim and Irvine, said final approval and construction of a Westdome wouldn’t put him out of the running. Despite the fact that the Westdome partners recently submitted a $100,000 application fee for an NBA franchise, Racine said: “It’s not over until the fat lady sings. . . . If this is some sort of foot race, then whoever gets the team first wins.”


Bob Lopez, a spokesman for a group fighting to save Santa Ana Stadium, which the city would raze for the Westdome Arena, said he was glad to see the city talking to a rival group. “I’m glad the city is looking at it,” he said. “I think that site would be great. Santa Ana would get its arena and an NBA team and the kids would get to keep their stadium.”