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SARASOTA, FL-The Sarasota-Manatee county area, one of the fastest commercial development hubs in west Central Florida, will be sporting a $46-million, 7,400-seat multi-purpose entertainment facility in 2005, in time to house its first professional hockey team.

Columbus, GA-based DVA Sports LLC, headed by banker Sal Diaz-Verson Jr. and insurance executive J. Shelby Amos, plans to break ground in first quarter 2004 on a 30-acre, 7,400-seat arena at the 5,500-acre Lakewood Ranch community here. The anchor tenant for the project is the Eastern Central Hockey League which has 31 franchises in the United States and Canada, according to Diaz-Verson. The landlord is Schoreder-Manatee Ranch Inc.

“As private investors, we have been carefully looking for a site and talking to different community leaders in the Sarasota-Manatee marketplace for more than two years,” Diaz-Verson says. He calls the site in the northwest quadrant of the ranch “a location in a growing region that has the right demographics for this type of venue.”

The complex will have 2,480 surface parking spaces, a full-service restaurant and bar, and community and business meeting space. Stadium Consultants International of Toronto designed the project. Walbridge Aldinger of Detroit is the general contractor.

Besides sports events, the facility will house fairs and festivals, concerts, conventions, trade shows, charity events and special community promotions.

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