Changes coming to Cedar Park Center

A sale of the Texas Stars hockey team and 17 acres near the Cedar Park Center could bring development nearby and changes behind the scenes of the center.

The sale could close by the end of 2014 and would transfer the team and land ownership as well as arena management from owner Hicks Cedar Park LLC to Canada-based Northland Properties Corp. Northland president Tom Gaglardi owns the Dallas Stars, a National Hockey League team for which the American Hockey League–affiliated Texas Stars serves as an official development team.

After the possible sale, the city of Cedar Park would still own the arena that opened in September 2009.

Rick McLaughlin, general manager of the center, said Texas Stars fans would see little change except perhaps longer breaks between hockey games to allow players more practice time.

"The primary reason that the Dallas Stars are interested in purchasing the [management] company and specifically the Texas Stars is just to continue to have full control over the development of the players in the Dallas Stars system," McLaughlin said.

Phil Brewer, Cedar Park economic development director, said city planners hope Northland will bring development that complements the venue. The 17 acres in front of the Cedar Park Center are in a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, that was approved by City Council in July 2013. Developers can be reimbursed portions of property taxes and sales taxes collected from the site for up to $2 million worth of improvements to water lines, roads and sidewalks within the TIRZ, Brewer said.

"When the center [opened], we envisioned it being an economic engine, driving development in that whole area," Brewer said. "Our discussions in the past have been [focused on bringing in an] office building, retail, restaurants and a hotel. We want to make sure that what is developed is quality development, and it is compatible with the center [that] it adds value and there is a synergy between them all, and they're all able to take advantage of each other."

Impact of the center

In 2002 Cedar Park residents voted down a bond package for a proposed amphitheater. In early 2005, City Council tried to finance another entertainment center with $30.8 million in voter-approved bonds, but in June 2005 council cited financial challenges and voted to stop the project until the city could find better financing options.

Then in 2006 council introduced an initiative to build an event center financed by a half-cent of sales tax revenue. Voters approved the project in November 2006.

Brewer said since opening, the arena has hosted approximately 500 events—circuses, concerts, high school graduations, monster truck shows, musicals on ice and sporting events—that have introduced at least 2 million people to Cedar Park and its restaurants and shops. For the arena's five-year anniversary, the city commissioned an independent study—which could be available in September—to show how the facility has affected local growth.

"I think [the results] are going to be very positive and very revealing of what a positive impact the center has had on Cedar Park and the surrounding area for the last five years," he said.

McLaughlin said the center featured 132 events during the past season—July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014—and has already planned 160 events for the current season.

Sports at the center

McLaughlin said support is increasing for the center's three resident sports teams. The Stars debuted in Cedar Park when the arena opened in 2009, reached the AHL's playoffs in 2010 and won the 2014 Calder Cup championship in June. The Austin Toros basketball team,came to the center in 2010 and won a championship in 2012; the Toros are part of the National Basketball Association's development league for the San Antonio Spurs. In July the Mylan World TeamTennis Austin Aces finished its first season at the arena; McLaughlin said he hopes the team will return next year.

Fans can find the Stars' Calder Cup trophy on display at various locations throughout the community until it will likely return to the center Oct. 11, when the Stars' 2014–15 season begins, McLaughlin said.

Scott White, director of hockey operations for the Dallas Stars and general manager of the Texas Stars, said the team's championship and sale to Northland may help to grow the Stars' local support.

"Our fans in Cedar Park have been awesome," White said. "There's still untapped marketing [for] Cedar Park in the Austin area. [The sale is] our opportunity to increase our fanbase a little bit—get more people involved, get more people in the seats to watch games and see what [they are] like."
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By Stephen Burnett

Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


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