Magic arena's likely builder has big portfolio
Mark Schlueb | Sentinel Staff Writer
October 26, 2007
The construction company that built the NBA's newest basketball arena will likely be the same one to build the Orlando Magic's new home court.
A selection committee made up of representatives from the Magic and from the city ranked Hunt Construction Group ahead of three other companies and joint ventures. The ranking almost guarantees that the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company will be the prime contractor on the city's $480 million arena, the most costly and controversial of three downtown venues approved in July.
"Their experience clearly was a determining factor," Magic Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins said. "Over the last decade in particular, they've been one of the leaders in the number of sports facilities they've worked on."
Hunt built the newest of the National Basketball Association's facilities, Charlotte Bobcats Arena, which opened in 2005. Among the company's other credits are: the Orange County Convention Center expansion; Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers; the San Antonio Spurs' AT&T Center; and Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Buccaneers in Tampa.
The company has repeatedly been ranked first in sports-facility construction by the industry publication Engineering News-Record.
The city required bidders to partner with minority- and female-owned firms, and Hunt's team includes four local companies that by themselves would likely not have the resources to take on such a big project. They include two black-owned firms, RL Burns Inc. and HZ Construction, and two Hispanic-owned firms, Rey Group and Albu & Associates.
RL Burns Inc. has its headquarters in Parramore, the impoverished community where the arena will be built. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer persuaded politicians to support the arena in part with a promise that Parramore would benefit from the project's construction.
Hunt, which has an office in Orlando, hosted a meet-and-greet gathering geared toward small contractors at Jones High School in September, and about 200 people attended. A seminar to teach small businesses to market themselves also drew large crowds to the school earlier this month.
Belinda Burke, Hunt's director of marketing and communications, said the company will require each of its partners to mentor smaller subcontractors, providing guidance that will benefit them on later projects. The city also has pushed to "unbundle" subcontracts so that multiple companies can share each of the building-trade jobs, such as electrical, plumbing, drywall and painting.
Three of the top Hunt employees who would work on the arena are now working on Lucas Oil Stadium, which will be home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts when it opens next year. The three also worked on the Charlotte arena, a facility with the type of amenities Magic executives have said they want in Orlando.
"The timing of that project is perfect for these gentlemen to move right to the events center," Burke said.
Three other teams were ranked below Hunt: A joint venture of PCL Construction Services, Barton Malow Co. and the local firm JCB Construction; a Skanska USA Building Inc. and JCB Construction joint venture; and an Austin Commercial and Hardin Construction Co. joint venture.
The ranking means the Magic will now enter contract negotiations with Hunt. If they can't come to terms -- which insiders say is unlikely -- the Magic will negotiate with the second-ranked firm.
Martins said he hopes to complete negotiations within 30 days.