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Orange County Digest

Santa Ana : Ex-City Official to Head Panel on Westdome Site

February 25, 1986|Andy Rose

Jon Stevens, a former city employee who lives near one of the proposed sites for the Westdome sports arena, will chair a committee designed to select a new location for the project.

Mayor Dan Griset named Stevens, 61, a former director of public works who now owns a Newport Beach travel agency, to head the 20-member panel on Monday. The City Council last month rejected a downtown site for Westdome, citing neighborhood opposition to anticipated traffic, parking, noise and litter problems.

Stevens said he hopes that the committee, which will begin meeting March 4, will reach a decision by April 15 so that the City Council can vote on the proposed site at its April 21 meeting. He said that all possible locations would be considered, adding that he wouldn't object to having the arena in his own neighborhood--near a proposed site at MacArthur Boulevard and Main Street--if that is the final decision.

He said that he has to familiarize himself with several studies pertaining to the plans for an arena and added that he has only read some news reports and heard some presentations on the project so far. "It's going to give 20 people a lot of work," he said.

Allan Durkovic, one of the four developers who propose to develop an arena in Santa Ana, said his group is concerned that a 20-member committee may not be able to reach a swift decision on a new site. The developers had hoped to have an arena built in time for the 1987-88 professional basketball season, he said, adding that the committee "just starts eating away at our timetable."

An application to the Internal Revenue Service will be mailed this week, requesting a ruling on whether a $40-million bond issue approved by the City Council in December can legally be used to finance the arena at a new site, Durkovic said. Such a ruling is expected to take four to six months.

The Westdome partners made a presentation on their plans to the National Basketball Assn. three weeks ago and, Durkovic said, the league indicated that discussions on an expansion team would begin at executive meetings scheduled for April 15. The partners have already deposited $100,000 in the quest for an Orange County expansion franchise.

If the partnership is awarded a new NBA team but an arena can't be built for the 1987-88 season, an interim site will have to be found for the team's first season. Durkovic said the Anaheim Convention Center, with a seating capacity of about 9,000, would be the first choice but scheduling would be difficult there; Cal State Fullerton would be the second choice, but its arena holds only about 4,500.

In addition, NBA team owners will have the final vote on any expansion, so the partners say they'll start to lobby those individuals, including the two Los Angeles team owners. "I think it would be prudent to at least have a meeting with Jerry Buss before then," Durkovic said.

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