Mercedes to sponsor AEG arena in China

Los Angeles-based entertainment titan AEG has found a sponsor for its new $280-million arena in Shanghai -- Mercedes-Benz.

The German auto manufacturer is expected to announce today that it would lend its name to the basketball and entertainment venue under construction on the Huangpu River in one of China’s most cosmopolitan cities.

The facility is being developed by AEG, the National Basketball Assn. and Oriental Pearl Group, a division of Shanghai Media Entertainment Group.

The multiuse arena, which will be about the same size as Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York, will be completed in time to be used as the performing arts center for the six-month World Expo fair starting in May. It will become Mercedes-Benz Arena in 2011.


Terms of the 10-year agreement with the developers were not disclosed. Staples Inc. paid AEG and other developers of Staples Center almost $120 million a decade ago to put its name on the downtown facility, and industry experts estimate Mercedes paid significantly more. In October, Staples agreed to lock up naming rights to Staples Center in perpetuity, also for an undisclosed fee.

Mercedes-Benz Arena would be the first Mercedes-Benz-named venue outside Germany. The 18,000-seat facility with 82 luxury suites will be used for performing arts such as concerts, sports and other entertainment.

Key among the sports will be basketball, a game played by 300 million Chinese, according to NBA International President Heidi Ueberroth.

The NBA is eager to gather fans in China and has signed a 14-year partnership with Shanghai Media to promote the game.


Preseason NBA games and other basketball events such as WNBA games will be held at the Mercedes center, Ueberroth said. “This is absolutely an NBA-level arena.”

AEG will manage and book the facility, President Tim Lieweke said. He expects it will be used mostly for sporting competitions and regional and national Chinese entertainment acts. Some Western performers may also appear.

Lieweke also thinks the venue’s saucer design by Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Design Group Co. will catch attention. “This is going to be one of the most famous, if not the most famous, arena designs in the world.”

In Los Angeles, AEG plans to open a joint Marriott and Ritz-Carlton high-rise hotel in January at its $2.5-billion L.A. Live project next to Staples Center, Lieweke said.