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New S.A. Sports Firm set to play pivotal pole in big NBA projects

San Antonio Business Journal
Publicaton: December 6, 2002
W. Scott Bailey

The project manager for SBC Center has parlayed that endeavor into a partnership that has spawned a new San Antonio sports company.

The firm - PC Sports - is already working on at least one new NBA arena and a training facility and offices for another.

Project Control - which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year - served as owner representatives for the San Antonio Spurs, San Antonio Livestock and Exposition Inc., and Bexar County in the building of SBC Center. In the process, the company worked closely with John Hilkene, a noted sports consultant who operates a one-man firm out of Florida named Seagull Bay Sports.

As a result of their joint efforts on SBC Center, Project Control President and CEO Robert Crittenden says Hilkene and Project Control have formed the new venture: PC Sports. The company will be based in the Alamo City and will market the combined expertise of Project Control and Hilkene's Seagull Bay Sports.

PC Sports will offer clients an array of professional services, including project management and owner representation in the design/build of sports arenas and stadiums. The company will also provide consultation to teams and leagues in areas such as non-player contract negotiations - to include lease and franchise agreements.

"With the whole dynamic of (SBC Center) and all that it involved, we knew we needed help," says Project Control's Crittenden. "As we began working with John (Hilkene), we found out that he had already done five or six of these arenas. He's got a fantastic intellect. He really knows these venues."

Hilkene was the project manager for Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse. He also worked on Cleveland's Gund Arena and the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. Hilkene says pairing up with Project Control made sense.

"We decided to go after these jobs together instead of competing against each other," he says. "We expect to grow this as we get more people with a sports background on board."

Hilkene says PC Sports is talking to more NBA teams and is keeping a watchful eye on the NHL, too.

"We want to get into the college (sports venue) market. And we also have a chance to get involved in some of these projects oversees," explains Hilkene.

Crtittenden says the partnership makes perfect sense.

"It was a natural," he says. "Here was a lot of expertise bottled up in one guy who physically didn't have the capability to do much more than he was already doing. And then here we were with 25 years of experience in the design and construction process."

It has not taken long for franchises and political bodies to reach out to PC Sports. Among the first were the owners of the Memphis Grizzlies' new home beginning in 2004 - the FedEx Forum.

PC Sports is serving as project manager for the FedEx Forum, representing its owners on construction of the 18,400-seat arena. That list of owners includes the City of Memphis, Shelby County, the Grizzlies and a joint city-county Public Building Authority.

"We're working for four groups, but we're still doing what we did here (for SBC Center)," explains Crittenden. "We're managing the process and consulting the Grizzlies on a number of issues. ..."

When finished, Crittenden says the FedEx Forum will include a massive parking garage and a training facility all situated a few footsteps from many of Memphis' famous Beale Street hot spots.

Unlike SBC Center, which was placed in a depressed neighborhood several blocks from downtown San Antonio, FedEx Forum officials say Memphis will enjoy the entertainment venue's immediate proximity to several of that city's busiest landmarks.

"It's a fantastic arena," says Crittenden about the Memphis project. "It's incredible."

Before the start of the current NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets packed their suitcases and relocated to New Orleans. But the NBA is working to place an expansion team back in North Carolina if Charlotte leaders construct a new arena. That decision may have a big impact on PC Sports.

"It's safe to say that we are in negotiations with the NBA's chief legal counsel to assist them in negotiating the franchise agreement for the new ownership in Charlotte," says Crittenden. That includes developing a lease agreement for the new building.

Crittenden says he expects a deal between PC Sports and the NBA to be consummated in the next 30 to 60 days. He says such a deal could help PC Sports land the role of project manager for the new Charlotte arena and possibly more NBA venues.

"Since we would be working with the NBA's chief legal counsel out of New York, certainly we're hopeful that will lead to some other associations on down the line," says Crittenden.

PC Sports could benefit twice from the Hornets' move. In addition to working with the NBA on its plans for a new Charlotte franchise and arena, the current Hornets owners have retained PC Sports to help them upgrade the New Orleans Arena and to construct a new practice facility similar to the one built by the Spurs.

Crittenden says PC Sports will serve as project manager for the practice facility and offices, which will be named the Hornets Nest and is being designed by Kell Muñoz Architects. That firm also designed the Spurs' new practice facility located near the South Texas Medical Center. The New Orleans project is scheduled for a ground-breaking in February.

PC Sports' involvement with the Hornets was partly aided by the firm's relationship with Hornets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Bob Bass. Before joining the Hornets in 1995, Bass spent 20 years with the Spurs, both as a head coach and in various front-office capacities.

Kell Muñoz CEO Henry Muñoz says PC Sports recommended his firm to the Hornets. He adds that Bass' familiarity with the Spurs and their new practice facility led him to visit the site.
"That helped," explains Muñoz.

He adds, "We're trying to finish the design phase in the next couple of weeks. We're on a very quick schedule."

It also helped that Muñoz lived in New Orleans for five years.

"They knew we had a familiarity with the city," he says.

As for the San Antonio firm's relationship with PC Sports and where that might lead, Muñoz says: "They like working with us and we like working with them. Will there be more opportunities? Absolutely. We're already working on that."

As previously reported by the San Antonio Business Journal, the Sacramento Kings are hoping to build what would be the team's third home in that city since the team moved there in 1985. The Kings have apparently already reached out to PC Sports about the project.

"We have been contacted by Sacramento," says Crittenden, adding that the new arena hinges on the passing of a bond election next year. And that, he explains, will only come after the Kings have put together an entire design package to sell to voters.

"So what they need now is somebody with expertise who not only understands how to put one of these arena projects together, but understands the costs and everything associated with it. We know we're on their short list."

Crittenden says former USAA Chairman Robert McDermott has already contacted Kings owners offering his endorsement of PC Sports. McDermott was also a former chairman of the Spurs.

PC Sports is also getting feelers from outside the NBA. The company could hit a home run in St. Louis with the Cardinals if that team's stadium plans move forward as many expect.

"We're getting interest expressed from outside the NBA. Baseball is part of that," says Crittenden. "There's a town up at the head of the Mississippi River that's got a big arch across it that's talking about a new baseball stadium. I guarantee you that we are under consideration."

 

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