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Reunion Arena Demolition to Start Next Month

Reunion Arena

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Wrecking crews arrive at Reunion Arena next month. The Dallas City Council is expected to approve the demolition contract February 25th. So, will the city keep and develop the property? Or will they sell it and give Dallas oilman Ray Hunt first dibs? KERA's BJ Austin has more on what's happening with one of downtown Dallas' most valuable pieces of property.

These days the only crowds Reunion Arena sees are commuters on a DART train traveling alongside the arena toward Union Station. The 28 year old arena was padlocked six months ago. It lost money each year after the American Airlines Center opened, unable to attract major events because of a non-compete clause in the public-private partnership to build the A-A-C.

Reunion Arena will be de-constructed, taken apart piece by piece, with much of the steel and other materials recycled. The leading bid from A&R Demolition, an Austin-based company, is slightly more than two million dollars. The job will take about six months. And when it's over, only a smooth, grassy area will remain.

At City Hall, Ron Natinsky, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, says city workers could be mowing that grass there for some time

Natinsky: The underlying property that the city will now own as a result of that is not on our immediate radar to deal with. It's a valuable asset. It's going to be worth more in the future, so I'm not in any hurry.

Also waiting and watching, Dallas oilman, developer Ray Hunt ... He owns the Hyatt Hotel next door to Reunion. If the property is put up for sale, a 1974 agreement with the city gives Hunt the right of first refusal. He would pay an unknown amount based on a formula devised almost 35 years ago. In order for that to "kick in", the city must declare the Reunion site "surplus property."

Council member Angela Hunt does not see that happening.

Hunt: I think, generally speaking, it makes more sense for us to NOT declare this property surplus. I think it's too valuable for that. It makes too much sense for us to work in partnership with a developer - whether it's Hunt or someone else - to redevelop there, to create a mixed use development. So that we'll have both living areas, office, retail - a vibrant community similar to Victory in a way, similar to the West Village. It doesn't make sense to me that we would want to declare it surplus.

Hunt says it wouldn't make any sense to sell the property in the current economic downturn.

Councilman Jerry Allen agrees the city should hang onto the property until the real estate market rebounds.

Allen: That's such a prime piece of property that will go hand in hand with the convention center hotel. My hope, and I know it will happen, is that we turn it into some sort of entertainment venue. You basically have a blank canvas at that point in time, so we'll just see what the canvas has to say.

Ray Hunt's Woodbine Development is not saying much about its role in the future of the Reunion property. Woodbine Chairman and CEO John Scovell says they're waiting to see what the city does.

Starting next month, the view from Reunion Tower to the site below will constantly change as Reunion Arena slowly disappears, making way for the city's own "field of dreams".

Send E-mail to BJ Austin