Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Major theme park coming to Fresno? Big investor eyes $300 million in possible projects

Fresno Bee: Major theme park coming to Fresno: Bob Sonnenblick in the news
Fresno city and development officials “rolled out the red carpet” to court a big-time Los Angeles investor interested in potentially developing an amusement park, indoor water park, revitalized arena, hotels, student housing, and more.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias confirmed to The Bee that representatives with Sonnenblick Development visited the city earlier this year and made offers to purchase city property and develop other projects in downtown and along Highway 99 in south Fresno.

LeeAnn Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, also confirmed Sonnenblick’s interest in Fresno.

Arias and Eager said the potential development investment could amount to $300 million and would be one of the single largest investments to diversify Fresno and the Central Valley’s economy in recent history.

“This represents not only an investment of about $300 million but the creation of an industry that has upward mobility, not minimum wage jobs,” Arias said. “It builds on diversifying our economy, where kids in high school can work there and become managers of hotels in the entertainment business. That’s why it’s so huge.”

Several factors make Fresno more appealing to investors, including the future High-Speed Rail station downtown, a dependable workforce, and the city’s sustainable water supply.

“The stars are aligning,” Eager said.

Just the first phase of potential projects would create upwards of 6,000 jobs, she said.

While rumors have swirled that Six Flags may relocate from Vallejo to Fresno, neither Arias nor Eager would confirm the amusement park was involved. The Bee reached out to Six Flags, and this story will be updated if there is a response. Sonnenblick declined to comment.

Bob Sonnenblick has an investment profile of $1.5 billion on the West Coast, and his company has led development on Los Angeles government buildings and luxury resorts alike. Sonnenblick has spoken publicly in the past about his work with Six Flags.

Sonnenblick already made an offer to buy the Selland Arena, creating stiff competition for the Fuego Football Club, which also hopes to buy the arena.

“Taxpayers should know that there’s a lot of good competition from people who want to invest in our city,” Arias said.

Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Dyer: Dyer: Multi-million dollar theme park could bring ‘millions’ to Fresno each year

If Fresno does get its own version of a Six Flags Magic Mountain or California’s Great America amusement park, Mayor Jerry Dyer has some locations in mind where the attraction could be placed.

In a message to The Bee discussing the possibility of Fresno partnering to bring aboard a multi-million dollar amusement park, Dyer said the attraction could be built somewhere near Highway 99 or even in downtown Fresno.

Dyer confirmed that he and City Manager Thomas Esqueda have held numerous meetings with Robert Sonnenblick, the principal owner of the Los Angeles-based real estate development firm Sonnenblick Development, and his associates over the past few months.

“We have discussed several entertainment development opportunities near the 99 freeway as well as downtown Fresno,” Dyer said. “Not only have we rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Sonnenblick and those he represents, we have clearly demonstrated that Fresno is poised to serve as the entertainment hub for central California.”

An amusement park, indoor water park, and hotels could all be part of the potential project to make Fresno a central California attraction.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias and LeeAnn Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, told The Bee that the potential development investment could amount to $300 million.

Dyer expressed optimism that a multi-million dollar amusement park in Fresno could happen and would be well received by the local community and beyond.

“Although I am prevented legally from discussing the details of the entertainment venue,” Dyer said, “it is safe to say it would attract millions of people annually to Fresno.”

Sonnenblick Development in the News: Is ‘Six Flags Over Fresno’ the Real Deal? Developer Looking for Site

Read Original on GWIRE
gwire.com News July 15, 2021

A developer associated with the Six Flags theme park company says he has been scouting Central Valley locations.

Developer Robert Sonnenblick says Six Flags is “looking at sites” in Fresno and Clovis. There have been several meetings with officials from both cities over the past three months.

“Fresno County is strong enough to support an amusement park complex,” Sonnenblick tells GV Wire.

Sonnenblick’s Los Angeles-based development company is known for building luxury hotels, shopping malls, and office complexes across the country. His company recently expressed interest in purchasing Selland Arena from the city of Fresno.

Related Story: L.A. Developer, Others Compete to Take Fresno Arena Off City’s Hands

Project Estimate of $300 Million

At a hotel building conference in March, Sonnenblick said his company is developing hotels at Six Flags properties in Los Angeles (Six Flags Magic Mountain is in Valencia), New York/New Jersey and Texas.

Speculation about a possible Fresno Six Flags project has been circulating for months. It was further amplified this week by a posting on a construction bidding website, seeking contractors for a project identified as a Six Flags Over Fresno Amusement Park. Dodge Data & Analytics values the listed project between $25-50 million for pre-design work.

Sonnenblick says the value of the entire project would be much higher.

He says between a hotel, retail space, amusement park and water park, the total investment would be $300 million.

“That would be one of our biggest,” said Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.

Sonnenblick would not comment on whether a Fresno-area development would be brand new, or if Six Flags might relocate one of its existing parks. He would not reveal what sites in Fresno/Clovis are being looked at.

Last year, his company submitted a plan to build a Six Flags water park/hotel combination in Solano County, adjacent to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. Sonnenblick says that deal is now dead.

“Vallejo and Solano County screwed up that wonderful piece of land. It will sit empty for decades,” Sonnenblick said.

Dyer: Rolling Out “Red Carpet”

Mayor Jerry Dyer is optimistic about Six Flag’s prospects in Fresno.

“The City Manager and I have had numerous meetings with Mr. Sonneblick over the past few months and taken several of his associates on a tour of our city,” Dyer said in a statement to the media after initially being coy when asked by GV Wire.

Dyer speculated possible locations.

“We have discussed several entertainment development opportunities near the 99 freeway as well as downtown Fresno. Not only have we rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Sonneblick and those he represents, we have clearly demonstrated that Fresno is poised to serve as the entertainment hub for central California. Although I am prevented legally from discussing the details of the entertainment venue, it is safe to say it would attract millions of people annually to Fresno,” Dyer said.

Meeting with City Officials

Eager confirmed her agency is working with Sonnenblick. However, she would not confirm their meetings with city officials were related to a Six Flags project.

Officials from Clovis would not confirm meeting with Sonnenblick.

“Any preliminary meetings taking place between the city and potential business ventures are confidential and we can’t comment on them,” said Clovis spokesman Chad McCollum.

Sonnenblick Development in The Fresno Bee: Will an amusement park really come to Fresno? Here’s what to know

Will an amusement park really come to Fresno? Here’s what to know
Fresno leaders on Thursday confirmed they “rolled out the red carpet” for a big-time investor interested in financing a bunch of new entertainment developments.

While nothing is set in stone, the potential of $300 million worth of projects would undoubtedly transform Fresno. Here’s what we know so far.

Is Six Flags coming to Fresno?

We don’t really know.

Mayor Jerry Dyer said he’s legally prevented from discussing details of the entertainment venue, meaning he likely signed a nondisclosure agreement. The Bee reached out to Six Flags for comment but never got a response.

But what we do know is this: Investor Bob Sonnenblick visited Fresno earlier this year and has met multiple times with Dyer, Councilmember Miguel Arias, and LeeAnn Eager, the CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation.

Sonnenblick has spoken publicly about working with Six Flags on other projects. He builds resorts and hotels. Plus, Sonnenblick made an offer to the city to buy Selland Arena.

Arias told The Bee potential projects could include an amusement park, indoor water park, and revitalized arena.

Eager said Sonnenblick and his representatives are excited about Fresno.

“They said ‘Fresno on the precipice of being great,’” Eager said. “Of course, we always thought we were, but they said we would really love to get involved and help with development.”

Bob Sonnenblick – Crittendon 2021 Conference Speaker

Real Estate Conference l Speakers

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Bob Sonnenblick Chairman, Sonnenblick Development LLC

Mark Fluent – Head of West Coast Real Estate, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

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Donald Moses – Managing Director, Real Estate Private Credit, Arena Investors LP

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Randy Wynne – Director of Revenue Management, RE Carroll Management

Jason Miller – Chief Investment Officer, Grand Sakwa Properties

Gary Bechtel – Chief Executive Officer, Red Oak Financial

Arthur Nevid – Head of U.S. Loan Origination, Romspen Capital

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PRESS: L.A. Developer, Others Compete to Take Fresno Arena Off City’s Hands

The future of Selland Arena could come down to three bidders.

Depending on what direction the Fresno City Council takes, the future of professional soccer hangs in the balance.

At its Thursday meeting, councilmembers will discuss the sale of the arena and surrounding land. The three listed companies on the agenda are Prosperous Terra, LLC (Ruelas, Inc.), owners of the Fresno Fuego professional soccer club; Sonnenblick Development, a Pacific Palisades firm; and USA Wrestling, the governing body for amateur wrestling.

The national office of USA Wrestling, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said they are not making the offer, but it is likely a related organization called California USA Wrestling, who made the bid.

California USA Wrestling did not respond to messages left by GV Wire.

A price for the arena has not been publicly revealed.

Developer Eyeing Fresno Market

Bob Sonnenblick, the principal of Sonnenblick Development, focuses on retail shopping centers, resort hotels, and government buildings. They have recently entered the arena business.

“Our plans are to own (Selland Arena) long term. We think it’s a great asset. That’s not the only asset we’re talking to the city about. We think that assets like that should not be under city ownership. Cities really don’t have the entrepreneurial background or experience in operating assets like that. They are better off being held in the private sector,” Sonnenblick said.

The city is looking at not only selling the arena, but the adjacent Valdez Hall and the parking lots that go with it. Sonnenblick said the area could use more parking and floated the idea of building another garage on the property.

Sonnenblick would not share what other city assets he is eyeing. But, he says prices in Los Angeles have him looking elsewhere.

“Prices in Los Angeles have gotten so stupid and so high that we decided to go to some secondary markets and we’ve identified Fresno as a tremendous growth area,” Sonnenblick said.

“Prices in Los Angeles have gotten so stupid and so high that we decided to go to some secondary markets and we’ve identified Fresno as a tremendous growth area.”

— Developer Bob Sonnenblick

Fuego: All or Nothing on Selland Arena

Fresno Fuego FC president Chris Wilson said it is Selland Arena or bust when it comes to the future of professional soccer in Fresno.

“The only way the business works for us is if we have all three facilities (Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and the parking lot) working hand in hand. If we don’t own the property or we don’t operate the property as a whole, the rental situation of land just doesn’t doesn’t pencil out,” Wilson said.

A few weeks ago, Fuego ownership made a public presentation during a city council meeting about their plans for Selland Arena. They plan to build a soccer-specific stadium in the parking lot, and use Selland and Valdez as youth sports and entertainment venues.

The Fuego would play in the USL, a pro soccer minor league. The team has been pitching the city on the Selland Arena project for seven months.

“We’re ready for the city to make a decision,” Wilson said.

The Fuego offer is the best, Wilson said.

“Our offer is more than just a purchase price. I mean, our offer is a commitment to the city to renovate and revitalize the Selland Arena property and to really build an entertainment hub for our community anchored by a brand new USL soccer stadium,” Wilson said.

Sonnenblick said he is willing to talk with the Fuego if he is the winning bidder. That doesn’t work for Wilson.

“We’ve seen what renting property looks like with Fresno. And it turns out not to work out,” Wilson said.

If Selland Arena falls through, the Fuego have a Plan B.

“We already have three other communities outside the city of Fresno that deeply, deeply want this project,” Wilson said.

One option could be using 45 acres owned by the team near Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County.

Am illustration of how the Fresno Fuego would use Selland Arena (Image: City of Fresno)