September 28, 2022
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Group managing Clippers’ NBA project joins sports arena team Midway Village+

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With the competition for San Diego’s sports arena site in full swing, one of the development teams in the running to redo the property has recruited an all-star arena partner to help elevate its bid above the rest.

Monday, the Toll Brothers Housing-led development team, Midway Village+, announced that it’s hired facility adviser CAA Icon to represent the group as it seeks to privately finance and build a 15,000-seat replacement arena alongside thousands of homes on the city’s 48-acre property in the Midway District.

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Denver-based CAA Icon is a subsidiary of Creative Artists Agency. It’s what’s known as an owner representative, meaning the firm is directly entrusted, usually by billionaires footing the bill, with carrying out the entire arena or stadium development process, including planning, design, permitting and construction.

“We normally get called in by clients who have unique challenges, whether those are political, league credibility, … saving a team for a city or really complex engineering projects — like The O2 in London,” said CAA Icon founder and Chairman Tim Romani. “We get called in when the challenges are greatest, and we never shy away from that.”

The agency, for instance, served as developer Oak View Group’s representative for the $1.1 billion Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. And, more recently, CAA Icon replaced Legends as the owner’s representative for the Los Angeles Clippers’ $1.8 billion Intuit Dome arena project under construction in Inglewood.

“This is a company that, in many ways, invented the role that they fill, which is to be the top adviser to the owner-developer groups that are trying to do arenas around the world,” said Kunal Merchant, who is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Revitate.

Revitate is the Newport Beach-based, sports real estate investment firm that is leading arena development for Midway Village+.

“All of the major arenas that have been built in California in the last 20 years have been led by CAA Icon. Adding them to our already strong team is just additional reinforcement and fortification. It’s saying, we’re going to have the expertise, the track record and know-how to really deliver a high quality arena to the people San Diego,” Merchant said.

Midway Village+ is seeking to lease and remake city-owned real estate at 3220, 3240, 3250 and 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. The development group is up against two competitors, Midway Rising and HomeTownSD. Teams have so far been judged primarily on how many affordable housing units they plan to build on the site, with San Diego required by the state to give priority to the proposal with the most units deed-restricted for low-income families. In terms of affordable units, Midway Village+ currently ranks third.

Toll Brothers and Revitate are partnered with affordable housing builder Bridge Housing on a plan that calls for a total of 4,210 housing units, with 1,610 units set aside for families making 80 percent of the area median income. Project renderings depict residential and commercial buildings that open onto a 12-acre central park and meandering stream leading to a new arena, an adjacent event venue and a hotel at the eastern edge of the site. The proposal also calls for a 12,000-seat modular soccer stadium for the San Diego Loyal soccer team.

The team’s relationship with CAA Icon will be formally cemented this week. Wednesday, Romani will help lead San Diego real estate negotiators on a tour of Golden 1 Center, home to the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise.

An interior rendering of Midway Village+'s proposed arena

An interior rendering of Midway Village+’s proposed 15,000-seat arena.

(Courtesy, MANICA Architecture)

Opened in 2016, and a product of a public-private partnership between Sacramento and the Kings, the 17,500-seat Golden 1 Center is being propped up by Midway Village+ as an example of its arena-building — and problem-solving — capabilities. CAA Icon helped keep the Kings in Sacramento, working to negotiate and structure a deal with the city, which contributed $223 million and $32 million worth of land to the $534.6 million project. The agency also served as the arena’s project manager.

Romani was instrumental in winning over the NBA’s support, said Merchant, who at the time was chief of staff for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

“We had a critical meeting (in 2012). This was the make-or-break moment, (determining) whether the team was going to stay in Sacramento or move to Anaheim. And we had one shot to convince the NBA to let us have more time to try to figure this out,” Merchant recounted. “We were in a hotel ballroom (with David Stern) the commissioner of the NBA, and 10 to 15 owners of NBA teams, who are billionaires, titans of industry. …

“We brought Tim Romani into the room and he was part of our presentation. We said, ‘Tim is going to lead the construction of our new arena. And you know he’s going to be able to pull it off because he built your arena and your arena and your arena.’ And we went around the room and he was able to point to team owner after team owner that he had helped build their building. And that is more powerful than a PowerPoint slide.”

Midway Village+ will lean on CAA Icon’s power and influence as it seeks to jockey into a stronger position in the sports arena competition.

Proposals are currently being vetted by the city’s real estate department and consultant Jones Lange LaSalle. The city has said it expects to select a winner before the end of the year.





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