Hopes Run High for $20M Phenix City Development

Oregon Arena Could Be Most Expensive of Its Size Ever

Sat April 28, 2007 - West Edition
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) The price tag for the University of Oregon’s (UO) sought-after new arena could be more than $200 million, making it one of the most expensive of its size ever.

According to documents obtained by the Register-Guard newspaper under the state public records laws, the University of Oregon estimated last year it would take $213.5 million to pay for the project once land costs are figured in. That’s substantially more than the $160 million estimate university officials most recently used.

Allan Price, the UO’s vice president of advancement, said the lower price was an estimate based only on costs directly related to construction. It did not take into account the cost of acquiring a former bakery and a former car lot, which would provide space for the arena and parking.

Still, the direct construction costs at the time the estimate was written early last year were put at approximately $175.5 million, Price acknowledged.

“The best-case scenario is we would be able to build an arena that is going to serve the needs of the university for the next 100 years … a facility that’s going to help stabilize the budget of the athletic department and move it from self-supporting to self-sustaining,” he said. “A building like that is not inexpensive.”

The UO wants a replacement for aging McArthur Court, which doesn’t meet needs for fan amenities or revenue generation.

The university has struggled to get its arena project restarted after UO President Dave Frohnmayer pulled the plug on an earlier effort three years ago. At that time he said the cost — an estimated $180 million not including parking — was too high. That would have been the most expensive college arena ever.

But the UO still wants the best arena it can get.

The Web site of TVA Architects, which is working with the firm Ellerbe Becket on the design, calls the proposed facility a “theater of basketball.”

The renewed effort seeks a 12,500-seat arena complex of approximately 400,000 sq. ft. (37,161 sq m) with a number of high-end amenities.

“I don’t think the university has anything to be embarrassed about, and I think we have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “I think we should aspire to greatness where that opportunity presents itself.”

Price cautioned that the documents captured from correspondence with the athletic department are just a snapshot of the vision for the project a year ago and not the numbers that would be used in a final design. Those figures could vary greatly depending on construction and design plan changes, including changing the location.

The university anticipates that much of the money for the arena will come from private donors, one document estimated $123 million. Another $55 million would come from bonds repaid from arena revenues. Those two sources would cover most of the direct construction costs.

The university previously sold bonds to purchase the bakery and car dealer property.

The UO arena could be among the elite college arenas in terms of cost.

The next most expensive arena recently built is the 15,000-seat John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia, with a construction cost of approximately $150 million, including a parking garage and new road.

The city of Louisville, Ky., is planning a 22,000-seat downtown arena that will be the home of the University of Louisville basketball teams. It is expected to cost $250 million, but that is for a far larger building aimed at hosting many non-basketball events.