Spurs’ Parker part of French arena effort

March 28, 2011 | Sports Business Journal

NBA star Tony Parker is playing a key role in developing a new arena in France. The plan is to build an indoor facility with 12,000 to 15,000 seats in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, said Marshall Glickman, the project’s senior adviser and former president of the Portland Trail Blazers. Lyon has 1.4 million residents and is the country’s second-largest market.

Parker, a native of Belgium who grew up in France, is the second-largest shareholder of Gones & Sports, whose firm SPSM is representing the city to build the arena. Gones & Sports also owns Asvel, the country’s most successful pro basketball team, which will play in the new arena.

Construction costs are estimated between $168 million to $196 million, but that could change after the final design is completed, said Antony Thiodet, vice president with Gones & Sports in charge of Asvel’s daily operations.

Parker’s interest in Lyon dates to a 2006 preseason game his San Antonio Spurs played in the city’s 5,800-seat Astroballe arena, Asvel’s current home. Asvel officials started having conversations with Parker about their vision for expanding the sport locally, and those talks ultimately led to developing a new facility for Asvel, Thiodet said. Parker bought a piece of the team in 2009.

“In the beginning, it was about Tony’s passion and dedication to basketball, but it turned out to be something else, a business proposition,” Thiodet said. “He put a significant amount of money into the project, and he is really paying attention to all the details.”

Parker has played in every NBA arena and has ideas from some of them that he would like to see incorporated into the French facility. The tower suite configuration at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the loge boxes at new Amway Center in Orlando and the new event-level club at AT&T Center in San Antonio are three examples of facility design Parker has mentioned to Gones & Sports officials, Thiodet said.

Attempts to reach Parker through the Spurs were not successful.

Plans call for two public concourses and a club/suite level, a permanent ice floor for Lyon Hockey Club and a design to accommodate major tennis tournaments, said officials with Global Spectrum Europe, a joint venture between Global Spectrum and the United Kingdom’s NEC Group that is a partner in the arena’s development.

Thiodet expects the arena to play host to 165 events annually.

The developers have selected an architect but were not ready to release that information last week. The arena is targeted to break ground in the fall of 2012 and open in October 2014.