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The Big Fish in Anaheim Pond : For $64,000 and up, luxury suite owners have oysters on the half shell and views of the Hollywood elite.

September 27, 1993|ANN CONWAY

Now here's the way to attend a sports event: The menu offers oysters on the half shell, the wine list Dom Perignon. Michelle Pfeiffer sits nearby.

Close your eyes and you're starring in "The Age of Innocence." Open them and you're at a hockey game . That's the way it was for luxury suite owners at the Anaheim Arena during a recent faceoff between the Mighty Ducks and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Via a ride in a private elevator and a quick stroll down a marble hallway, suite owners chatted on cushy sofas and padded seats, dined on gourmet dishes and sipped bubbly while they watched the puck fly.

Occasionally, a supernova like Pfeiffer--golden locks in a ponytail, a black baseball cap perched on her head--joins the ranks. On this night, she was a guest of the Penguins inside 317A on the Club Concourse level.

(Word's out that Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Michael D. Eisner, who hangs out in Suite 208 on the Plaza Concourse level, has invited a flock of entertainment and sports personalities to join him when the Ducks officially launch their season on Oct. 8.)

Owning a Pond box--or being a guest in one--is the hottest ticket in town.

With a rental rate of between $64,000 and $99,000 a year--the higher the price tag, the closer to center ice--you'd think the sky boxes would be lined with chinchilla and hung with chandeliers.

But here, above the fray, in television- and wet bar-equipped cubicles with sliding glass doors, it's the unobstructed view of the ice and the chance to toot a duck call in private that count.

Of the arena's 84 luxury suites--40 on the Plaza Concourse level, 44 on the Club Concourse--all but 10 have been leased, says John Nicoletti, arena marketing manager.

"Corporations love the suites because they're a great place to entertain employees, customers and potential customers," Nicoletti said.

Bill Platt, vice president of development at Anaheim Memorial Hospital, agrees.

"It's very exciting to watch the Mighty Ducks and share that experience with employees and associates," he said.

In addition to Anaheim Memorial Hospital (the Pond's official hospital), tenants include the City of Anaheim, Disney Sports Entertainment, Disneyland, Ogden Facility Management, Kimco Services, Viking Products and ad agency Salvati, Montgomery and Sakoda.

For Rob Liefeld, 25, of Fullerton, a private suite means having the chance to "enjoy sports in a relaxing atmosphere."

"Plus, I couldn't resist getting in on the ground floor of something new," said Liefeld, the Wunderkind cartoonist who says his Image Entertainment Publishing Co. makes a cool $20 million a year (and who signed with Steven Spielberg in February to create the hero for a sci-fi movie called "Doom's IV").

"I always wanted to get a suite at the Anaheim Stadium, but couldn't, so I'm really excited about this one," Liefeld said.

Scott Montgomery, a founder of the Costa Mesa ad agency Salvati, Montgomery and Sakoda, found a unique way to become a suite owner.

"We have nine people who bought into a 14-seat box for seven years," he said during the recent preview game. (Boxes can accommodate 10, 12 or 14 guests.) "We're sports nuts. Some of us are using it for write-offs, some for clients.

"All of us are very in to this. We're waiting for the NBA to come, and we're excited about the National Hockey League."

Montgomery's per annum cost? A mere $7,000.

"I have one seat personally. My company has one seat. And that's for every arena event for seven years," he said. "We really wanted to lock it in because we hear suite prices will go up when the NBA comes. Nobody knows yet how much they will go up."

Why all the frills for an event that is more about dog piles and fistfights than sunken goals?

"When you come to a hockey or a basketball game at an indoor facility after work, it's more of an entertainment," Nicoletti said. "It's almost like going to the theater.

"An outdoor football or baseball game is more of a hot dog and nachos kind of deal. The amenities for the hockey and football crowd are quite different.

"It's a crowd that changes from row to row. They go from casually dressed, die-hard hockey fans to men and women in business suits in luxury suites."

Just Ducky.

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