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Anaheim Takes Major Step Toward an Arena

Clearing the way for a November ground breaking on the $100-million Anaheim Arena, the City Council on Tuesday night approved long-awaited agreements with the Ogden Corp. of New York to develop and manage the 20,000-seat facility.

Now only final architectural plans and builder agreements are needed before shovels hit the dirt, intensifying the race with Santa Ana, which is proceeding with plans for a similar $70-million arena.

Under the agreements signed Tuesday, Anaheim will own the facility; it will be managed by Ogden and the Nederlander group, which will book events. The city could be liable for up to $2.5 million a year if there are operating shortfalls and could gain up to 30% of the net arena profits after the first 15 years.

The agreements were approved 4 to 0 by the council, with Councilman Irv Pickler absent. No one spoke against the agreements.

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City Manager James Ruth, the city’s chief negotiator for the project, congratulated the City Council for what he called “very courageous” action, adding, “We’re going to have a world-class facility, like we always do here in Anaheim.”

A number of key negotiators for the city and Ogden, who have been engaged in often-rocky negotiations since September, 1988, joined in the festive fanfare Tuesday night to celebrate the final approval of the contract.

“It’s on an absolute, no-fail course,” said Neil Papiano, an attorney representing Ogden. “The missiles are in the air and there’s no calling the missiles back.”

City officials have downplayed the financial-risk section of the management agreement, calling the possible $2.5-million liability a “limited” price to pay in return for the anticipated revenues, jobs and prestige the arena would bring.

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If ground breaking begins as scheduled this fall, the arena should be complete by October, 1992, in time for the start of both the National Basketball Assn. and National Hockey League seasons.

The similar 20,000-seat arena proposed for Santa Ana was back on track Monday after a legal challenge, filed by residents and local businesses against the city and arena developers, was thrown out by a Superior Court judge. The would-be developer of Santa Ana’s proposed arena now is proceeding with meetings with architects and is negotiating with basketball and hockey teams.

Anaheim also faced three lawsuits against its arena, filed by the Anaheim Stadium Assn., the Los Angeles Rams and a nearby mobile home park owner. They were settled out of court in May.

The lawsuits challenged the environmental review of the project, alleging that the report did not fully address the impact that the arena would have on parking, traffic and noise in the area.

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In the settlement, the city paid $400,000 to the owners of a mobile home park near the arena site. To help alleviate parking and traffic congestion, the city also agreed not to book events within one hour of the start of Angels games and within two hours of Los Angeles Rams games. Additionally, the city paid the challengers’ attorney fees, which totaled $300,000.

Though most experts believe that Orange County can support only one indoor sports arena, those celebrating Tuesday were optimistic that despite the race against Santa Ana, the Anaheim Arena would be a success.

“I don’t view it as a race,” said Mayor Fred Hunter. “This sports arena is going to do nothing but complement the convention facilities in Anaheim.”

Although no sports teams have yet agreed to play in the arena, Nederlander plans to bring entertainers Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, among others, for concert performances, said James M. Nederlander, chairman of the board.

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The arena is planned for a site along Douglass Road, near Anaheim Stadium.


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