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Complex to Bear Home Depot Name

Business: AEG agrees to 10-year, $70-million deal with company for title rights at ever-growing facility in Carson.

July 09, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Philip Anschutz's desire to find a new home for his Galaxy soccer team has developed into plans for a sports venue so large and ambitious that it will have a naming rights deal that rivals recent contracts involving the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Astros.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group will announce today it has reached a 10-year, $70-million agreement with The Home Depot for name rights to the ever-growing National Training Center in Carson.

The $130-million complex, which broke ground in February, will include a 27,000-seat soccer stadium, a 13,000-seat tennis stadium, a cycling velodrome and, it will also be announced today, a track and field stadium expandable up to 30,000 seats.

"We have been preaching that this facility is going to be revolutionary, a brand new dream of sports in this country, and this deal is very representative of that," Tim Leiweke, AEG president, said Monday. "We have found in The Home Depot a company that shares our vision for the potential of this facility."

The agreement includes a clause stipulating that AEG will purchase $30 million of building supplies from the Atlanta-based home improvement chain.

The Home Depot National Training Center will be constructed on 85 acres at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The center is due to be completed in June 2003.

"Beyond the business-to-consumer appeal to the individual who has shelves to hang up, there's a business-to-business play being made here, where The Home Depot can say they helped build that facility and they can tell that story over and over to other businesses," said David Carter, principal owner of Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group and a USC sports business instructor.

The naming rights contracts signed by the Eagles and Astros each are longer in duration, but the $7 million a year AEG will get is $300,000 higher annually than the deal the Eagles signed with Lincoln Financial and $1 million better than the Astros' agreement with Coca-Cola for Minute Maid Park.

By comparison, Anaheim Sports' contract with Edison International requires an annual payment of $2.5 million.

Leiweke said the deal is so lucrative because Robert L. Nardelli, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Home Depot, realizes AEG's ambitions for the center, which will be the Galaxy's regular-season home, training center for U.S. men's and women's soccer teams, a venue that is expected to host U.S. Tennis Assn. events, and now a stadium that is expected to host major track and field events.

Additionally, Leiweke said he is negotiating for the center's planned Olympic velodrome to be the home for USA Cycling athletes who compete in track racing, which accounts for 12 of the 18 cycling events in the Summer Games.

"You would think that in Southern California, where a high percentage of the competitors in these sports are from, we should have a complex in place to finally put the U.S. on the map by hosting world-class events," Leiweke said.

"We are not only going to create a facility that allows athletes to take steps up in competition, but we want to have a facility where the world's best and most prestigious events will be held."

The track and field stadium will have 5,000 permanent seats and can be expanded by 25,000 using mobile temporary seating sections that will be shifted among the center's venues.

Leiweke said the track and field facility allows for grander challenges, like pursuing bids to host the 2006 International Assn. of Athletics Federations World Cup, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and, perhaps, the 2009 World Championships. The World Championships and World Cup have never been held in the U.S.

"We're going to get one of the two and maybe both, I promise," Leiweke said. "And when we host it, it will have an amazing, significant impact on the sport in this country. That's what the NTC is all about."

Even at 30,000 seats, the track stadium will lack the capacity typically reserved for World Championships, but a top U.S. Track and Field official said the IAAF has expressed interest in putting the meet in Carson. The 2006 World Cup bid is expected to be determined in September, before this year's event in Madrid. If Carson wins, it is likely to receive the U.S. Track and Field Championships in 2005.

Carson is also seeking to become a hub for cycling. Sean Petty, vice president of marketing for USA Cycling, said negotiations to move the organization's track-racing operation from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Carson are "on the fast track," and could be settled within two months.

Petty said USA Cycling needs assurances the center will be equipped with a 250-meter covered velodrome with adequate dormitories and sports medicine facilities for the athletes. Leiweke said he will meet those requests and estimated the cycling facility will cost $10 million.

Petty said representatives from the Switzerland-based Union Cyclists International are interested in holding their World Championships in Carson. The event hasn't been in the U.S. since 1986.

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