Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

County picks its partner for arena plan

D & A Sports wants the new venue to be built in Germantown

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The group lobbying for a multi-purpose sports arena in Montgomery County has been awarded exclusive negotiating rights with the county as the second phase of a feasibility study moves forward.

And the group is hoping to build the arena in Germantown, said Bill Askinazi of Potomac, partner and general counsel for D & A Sports and Entertainment Group with Tom Doyle, president of the Maryland Nighthawks basketball team.

‘‘We want to get this in to the Germantown Master Plan,” said Askinazi a former state economic development official. ‘‘So we’ve been meeting with those groups and they’ve been great.”

D & A Sports and Entertainment was created in 2006 ‘‘with the sole purpose of bringing a multi-purpose arena to Montgomery County,” said Patrick K. Lacefield, a spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Three groups submitted requests for proposals when the county asked for interested parties in September, Lacefield said.

The arena, which could be built in the upcounty, could host a variety of events including minor-league sports teams, concerts and graduations.

D & A Sports is partnering with SMG, a Philadelphia sports management firm that works with arenas around the country, Lacefield said.

Doyle did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Lacefield was quick to point out that the county has not committed to building a facility, particularly at a time when county agencies are facing budget cuts.

‘‘We’re just at the beginning of the process here. We’re not talking about first of all, making a decision that we want to do an arena yet,” he said. ‘‘We’re just laying the foundation so we can get more information. We’re not talking about any funding. We’re not expecting any money in capital budget this year. Anything that would be in the operating budget would be the same in terms of wrapping up the feasibility study.”

HOK Sports of Kansas City was hired to do a preliminary site evaluation after a feasibility study released last year and commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority estimated that the arena could bring $7.5 million in net revenue a year to the county.

The study assumed that Germantown would be the site for an arena with total capacity of 8,000 to 10,000.

HOK’s evaluation includes number of seats, where it would be built and the public-private stake in the project, Lacefield said.

The county allocated $200,000 — including $50,000 from the state — for the feasibility phase of the project, which covers the study and work done by HOK Sports, county officials have said.

The stadium authority study concluded that the lack of an arena in Montgomery County is ‘‘a major deficit in what is otherwise an amenity-rich environment” and that there is substantial ‘‘pent-up demand” for an arena.

In November 2006, county officials mentioned several upcounty sites as possibilities, including the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg and the Germantown campus of Montgomery College.