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Development set to bring USA Basketball to downtown Tempe

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TEMPE – If all goes as planned, come late 2016 the organization that prepares the U.S. basketball team for the Olympics and other international competitions will have its headquarters and training facility on 10.7 acres owned by Arizona State University.

Under a 99-year lease agreement with the university, developers would build USA Place, a $436 million complex with a home for USA Basketball, an Omni Hotel and conference center, 500 luxury apartments, 240,000 square feet of commercial office space and 180,000 square feet of retail space.

The property, at Mill Avenue and University Drive, currently holds a closed Chili’s restaurant, aging strip mall space used by the university and a large parking lot.

USA Basketball’s space is to include practice space that can be converted into a 4,500-seat arena for basketball games and other events. In addition to its senior men’s and women’s teams, USA Basketball’s eight age-specific national teams for younger players are to use the facility.

“Every young blue-chip player trying out for USA Basketball will pass through town,” said Michael Hallmark, one of three principal developers of USA Place.

Hallmark said construction is expected to begin late this year. Omni Hotels will cover its portion of the development and a single investor whom USA Place won’t identify is to provide the rest of the funding, he said.

“This part of town will feel much more like SoHo than other developments in the area,” he said. ”We think it will bring several best-in-class experiences to one place.”

Hallmark is the founder of Future Cities LLC, a firm that helps build and renovate entertainment venues around the country. His firm worked on US Airways Center, Chase Field and Comerica Theatre with Jerry Colangelo, a Valley sports executive who now serves as chairman of USA Basketball.

The plan calls for USA Basketball to move its headquarters from Colorado Springs, Colorado, after the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The arena also is to host tournaments and state finals for Arizona Interscholastic Association basketball, volleyball, badminton and spiritline.

The arrangement will provide AIA with a consistent, annual time-slot for its state tournaments, said Brian Bolitho, an AIA spokesman.

“To be right by ASU and know every year when our tournaments are occurring will be great, and I hope we can bring the crowds,” he said. “We think it will be a win-win for everyone involved.”

John P. Creer, ASU’s assistant vice president of real estate development, said the university expects USA Place to benefit downtown Tempe for years to come.

“A 99-year lease is the longest we can sign without selling the property,” Creer said. “There were six bids to develop that land, and ASU felt theirs was the best one.”

Creer said he didn’t know the financial terms of the agreement because he wasn’t working at ASU when it was made. Sharon Keeler, an ASU spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a phone message Friday seeking details of the lease deal.

The other principal members of the USA Place development team are Scottsdale-based commercial real estate developer Concord Eastridge of Scottsdale and Harris Sports and Entertainment, a Valley venue and events management firm headed by former Rob Harris, a former Phoenix Suns vice president.

Harris said the project is creating buzz in the basketball community.

“There are a number of current NBA players around the league who are aware of the Tempe project and they’re very excited about it,” he said.

But Harris said his biggest sense of accomplishment will come from the project’s benefits for downtown Tempe and Arizona’s young athletes.

“To be affiliated with AIA and to be involved in something that enhances their competition while enhancing the local quality of life is very fulfilling,” he said.