SANTA ANA : Arena Expected to Add 244 Jobs, Traffic

A consultant declared Monday that the city's proposed indoor sports arena would create significant traffic congestion when its events begin or end during rush hour.

But on the plus side, the $75-million facility would bring 244 more jobs and "visually attractive" new buildings to the city, according to an environmental report prepared for the arena's private developers, Spectacor Management Group and MCA Entertainment.

"The project will provide employment opportunities for local residents and is expected to improve business and commerce in the city," said the report compiled by Keith Cos. of Costa Mesa for the developers.

Construction of the 20,000-seat arena is expected to begin June 1 on 17 vacant acres at the southeast corner of Edinger Avenue and Lyon Street, according to the generally favorable report. The arena is expected to open in August or September, 1992.

The Santa Ana environmental report comes three weeks after a similar report by the city of Anaheim on a nearly identical arena proposed there. But Anaheim officials estimate ground can be broken for their 20,000-seat, $85-million arena in January and construction completed by the fall of 1991. That arena would include 80 luxury suites compared to Santa Ana's 120 luxury suites.

Both cities hope that building an arena will lure a professional basketball or hockey franchise. Separate private firms propose to operate each arena.

In Santa Ana, the facility would be privately owned and built on private land. In Anaheim, the arena would be built on city-owned land and operated under a lease agreement by private firms. Construction cannot begin on either arena until the environmental reports are certified by their respective city councils.

Residents opposed to noise and traffic were instrumental in defeating previous proposals for sports arenas in both cities.

"There's less impact than I expected," Santa Ana senior planner Jeff Rice said of the Santa Ana arena report. Most of the traffic generated by the facility would occur during non-peak hours, he said.

However, a televised basketball event that begins at about 5 p.m. for broadcast to the East Coast would generate significant additional rush-hour traffic in the area, which generally features light manufacturing and industrial uses, he said. A normal starting time of 7:30 p.m. for most basketball games would create much less traffic congestion, Rice said.

An "unavoidable adverse impact" would be created by traffic congestion on streets around the junction of Edinger Avenue and the Costa Mesa Freeway during rush hour, the report said.

But the congestion can be eased somewhat by the use of traffic barriers, traffic control officers and changing computerized traffic signal controls, according to the report. Additional traffic control officers on the street would be paid for by the arena operators, Rice said.

Although boosters of the Santa Ana arena hope to attract a professional sports franchise as the main user of the facility, the environmental report declares that "the range of possible events is limited to the imagination of the management staff."

In its first year of operation, the Santa Ana arena would be used 155 to 220 days, the report said. But by the fourth year, the arena would operate 255 days, it said.

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