Campus: CSU, Fresno -- May 09, 2001

Save Mart Center Groundbreaking Celebration at Fresno State Launches Construction Phase of Project Supported entirely by Private Funds

State and local officials descended on the California State University, Fresno campus today (May 8) for a historic and unique groundbreaking of the Save Mart Center, the $103 million privately-funded sports, entertainment and educational venue that will be the largest of its kind in Central California.

California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Secretary of State Bill Jones returned to their alma mater for the festive shovel-less groundbreaking celebration joining CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and Fresno State President John D. Welty.

State Senators Charles Poochigian and Jim Costa also attended the event that featured the university's Bulldog mascot, Time Out, climbing into the driver's seat of a backhoe to break ground on the project.

"The folks who now drive to Los Angeles and San Francisco to see the big name acts will come here instead and will keep our resources right here where they belong, right here in our community," said Bustamante.

Chancellor Reed noted that the Save Mart Center will be the largest privately funded project ever built in the Californian State University system.

"We can look forward to this Save Mart Center and say this is the house the community built," Reed told the more than 1,000 campus and community members who attended the festive event that highlighted student leaders and athletes.

Corporate sponsors Bill Robinson, general manager of the Pepsi Bottling Group, and Bob Piccinini, chief executive officer of Save Mart Supermarkets, also addressed spoke.
Fresno Mayor Alan Autry said the project will be good for Fresno and the Central Valley.

"This arena makes a big statement for the rest of the city and around the world, and I really like that it coincides with the building of our downtown stadium," Autry said. "Anytime a city builds things like that, the whole city gets stronger; every neighborhood gets stronger."
The Save Mart Center gained final approval from CSU trustees in March. The center is expected to be completed in 2003.

The adjacent West Complex will follow soon thereafter and include the new Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the high-tech Leon and Pete Peters Educational Research Center, athletic administrative offices and a student recreation center.

Turner Construction Co. has been selected to build the Save Mart Center and contract negotiations are under way.

The Save Mart Center will be able to accommodate up to 18,000 spectators for events and will be the largest venue of this type in the San Joaquin Valley. More than one million spectators will visit the facility each year and attend a variety of events including sporting events, concerts, family shows and cultural events.

Entertainment industry experts say the state-of-the-art center will put Fresno "on the map" and that major acts that typically bypass Central California will come to the Save Mart Center. In fact, Gary D. Smith, chief operating officer of POLLSTAR, a leading concert industry magazine, thinks the number of major concerts in Fresno will at least double.

Tuesday's groundbreaking highlighted Fresno State students who earlier this year helped the project by passing a referendum for a fee increase to fund the student recreation center west annex.

The students will have 2,000 seats in the arena and Tuesday they staked claim to what will be known as the "Dog Pound."

In addition to Chancellor Reed, CSU Trustees Debra Farar and Dan Cartwright were on hand for the groundbreaking.

Others who offered comments on the historic day were Clovis Mayor Jose "Joe" Flores; Nick Dvorak, president of the Bulldog Foundation; and Arakel Arisian, Associated Students Inc. president.

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