Among the challenges the NBA faces in holding games in China, or otherwise taking advantage of the league’s huge popularity here, is a lack of venues equipped to host NBA events. As has been expected, the league is making big moves to remedy that situation, with a joint venture with Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to develop a dozen arenas in China.
Early reports and conventional wisdom suggest that the first site developed will be in Shanghai, with an 18,000-seat arena completed in time for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The second site, Guangzhou, is expected to be announced at Wednesday’s NBA preseason game at Guangzhou Gymnasium.
“Our largest market outside the United States is going to be here in China,” said Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA global marketing partnerships and international business operations. Tim Chen, CEO of NBA China, said that the NBA and AEG will have a $28 million stake in the Shanghai project and that the total project cost will be $277 million. By contrast, the Ford Center, a similarly sized arena that will host the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics), cost $89 million to build.
NBA commissioner David Stern indicated that construction wouldn’t start right away and that the league hadn’t chose all of the locations for arenas, which could also be in “Greater China” cities like Taipei, Macao and Hong Kong.. “We weren’t going to start construction in the next couple of weeks,” he said at a news conference with AEG in London. “We anticipate that in a relatively short order we will have laid out a road map of a dozen buildings or so throughout China.” He added that decisions would be made over the next several months about where to put arenas.
AEG president and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke said he considered it a 20-year project, and that most of the new venues will be “built and designed from the ground up.”
The arenas will be part of multiuse entertainment complexes, according to a statement from the NBA: “Where feasible, the arenas will be developed in conjunction with surrounding cultural and entertainment districts potentially comprised of restaurants, retail outlets, cinemas, hotels, residential areas, sports training facilities and smaller live entertainment venues.”
The announcement comes just days before the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors play a pair of pre-season games in China. They will play at Guangzhou Gymnasium October 15 and on October 18 at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, the Olympic basketball venue developed by the NBA.
Related: Bucks and Warriors to play in China in 2008
Basketball’s China Game Plan
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