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ONTARIO, CA-After a decade-long wait, Citizens Business Bank Arena, an 11,000-seat, 225,000-sf sports and entertainment facility, has broken ground. Upon its October 2008 opening, the project costs will top $130 million and the arena will be the largest enclosed entertainment venue in the Inland Empire. It will host basketball and ice hockey games, as well as conventions, concerts and other public and private events.

The groundbreaking, which took place on the 37-acre parcel between Haven Avenue, Milliken Avenue, Fourth Street and the I-10 Freeway, was attended by top executives at AEG, the arena’s operator; Citizens Business Bank, the arena’s naming rights partner; and the City of Ontario, the arena’s owner.

“This is going to create an atmosphere of entertainment that the Inland Empire has been craving for a long time,” says Mayor Paul Leon. “No longer are we going to have to slug it out on the freeways on the way to Los Angeles.”

The arena is being marketed as the centerpiece of Piemonte at OntarioCenter. This urban, mixed-use project is currently under construction and will be composed of class A office, specialty retail, a full-service hotel with more than 200 rooms, and other entertainment and urban living components.

Greg Devereaux, Ontario’s city manager, believes that housing the Inland Empire’s largest arena will fulfill the entertainment needs of the region’s more than four million residents and businesses, which will then bring about more business.

“[The city] is moving toward having a variation of product types, including high-end [projects],” Devereaux tells GlobeSt.com. “The arena adds an entertainment component that will lead businesses and people to say ‘I want to be where that is.’”

Devereaux also noted that other cities including Pomona, San Bernardino and Riverside had all vied for an arena of equal magnitude. However, Ontario, Devereaux says, had been trying to bring this arena to fruition for the past 10 years. Once Piemonte began to pencil, the arena became a real possibility.

Timothy Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, noted that the sports and entertainment presenter that also operates Staples Center, entered into the partnership because the company saw Ontario as a capital market and was confident that the arena would attract a sports franchise in the near future.

Upon its opening on Oct. 1, 2008, Citizens Business Bank Arena will feature 9,500 fixed seats, additional “portable” seat risers, 36 luxury suites, refreshment stands, merchandise kiosks and a VIP club, among other amenities. Ontario plans to spend approximately $73 million on the project’s construction and $17 million on steel and concrete, according to city council votes that took place this past January and February.

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