Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Benham Selected for MAPS Sports Arena

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Benham Selected for MAPS Sports Arena

Article excerpt

The Benham Group's plans for cost-effective design and its partnership with a national designer of sports arenas made the Oklahoma City firm the top choice as architect of the MAPS indoor sports arena, said Larry Roach, a principal in the firm.

The Oklahoma City Council Tuesday unanimously gave authority to begin contract negotiations with Benham as designer of the $81 million arena, the largest _ and last to be built _ of the Metropolitan Area Projects.

The firm was recommended by a three-member committee whose No. 2 choice resulted in a tie between HTB Inc. and RGDC Inc., Oklahoma City designers of the problem-plagued Oklahoma County Jail. Also in consideration was C.H. Guernsey Co. of Oklahoma City.

All the firms were qualified, said Jim Thompson, manager of the city's MAPS project office, but The Benham Group was noted for "looking at the overall program and how they fit in. It was a very detailed impression with attention to quality control and budget."

While The Benham Group has no experience in designing sports facilities, the company's consultant, Sink Combs Dethlefs of Denver, is nationally known for such efforts, Roach said.

"Benham is one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the state. When news (of our interest) became widely circulated we were inundated with calls by a number of firms. Sink Combs Dethlefs had the technical capacity, strong cost-effective design and track record. These guys are world-class designers of arena facilities."

Sink Combs Dethlefs is primary designer of the McNichols Arena, home of the Denver Nuggets; The Palace Arena, home of the Detroit Pistons; and the San Jose Arena, home of California's San Jose Sharks.

The 20,000-seat MAPS arena also must be designed to standards of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, from which the city hopes to lure a franchise.

Roach said he does not believe arena seating must be scaled down to fit the $81 million budget. That price is in the middle range of similar arenas that have been built between $37.3 million and $175.1 million.

Roach said cost-cutting measures must be sought in the early part of design. "It is all too easy with a project of this scope and magnitude to push the envelope."

Computer-aided designs by the firm reduce the roof span of the bowl-shaped arena by optimizing space for concourses, entryways and service tunnels.

One lower-level concourse, instead of several at different levels, will allow seat rows to be spread out and lower the building height.

The Benham Group did not seem so committed to keeping its own costs down. The firm's fees reportedly could range between $3 million and $5 million.

Since city consultants are chosen by qualifications and not through competitive bidding, council members have been vocal in their warnings to negotiate reasonable fees. …

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