Sonnenblick Development In the News – Fresno August 2021

Major LA developer wants to turn Fresno into an ‘entertainment destination.’ Here’s his plan

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2021 08:09 AM

The four facilities of the Fresno Convention Center – Exhibit Hall, Saroyan Theater, Valdez Hall and Selland Arena – are shown in this aerial view from Google Maps. A vacant lot is where a 200-room hotel is planned. TIM SHEEHAN FRESNO BEE FILE

A noted Los Angeles developer has expressed interest in purchasing and improving multiple properties in southern areas of the city to turn Fresno into “a family-friendly entertainment destination.”

Sonnenblick Development will present to the Fresno City Council this week on its proposal to purchase and improve the Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and the Saroyan Theatre if and when it becomes available. The council also will negotiate the sale of Selland in closed session with Sonnenblick.

“We think they’re highly underutilized under the city’s ownership and they would be much more successful in private, entrepreneurial hands,” Robert Sonnenblick said in a phone interview with The Bee.

Sonnenblick said he’s also met with Fresno County officials and is interested in purchasing portions of the Fresno Fairgrounds and the former University Medical Center. He declined to outline his vision for those properties, citing potential competition.

“The opportunities in Fresno are fabulous,” he said. “Fresno’s got a very stable population with good, hard-working people, and it just doesn’t have the right entertainment venues made available to the public.”

Last month, Mayor Jerry Dyer and Councilmember Miguel Arias confirmed to The Bee they gave Sonnenblick representatives a tour of the city and made offers to purchase city property and develop other projects in downtown and along Highway 99 in south Fresno. Projects could include amusement park, indoor water park, revitalized arena, hotels and student housing, they said. Sonnenblick has previously publicly talked about his work with Six Flags, though no one has confirmed whether that’s the amusement park that could come to Fresno.

Arias told The Bee on Monday that Sonnenblick proposed $16 million in renovations to the Selland Arena and wants to bring the events promoter and venue operator Live Nation to the venue. Sonnenblick again declined to outline his plans for the venues, citing competition.

“It would be a game changer for downtown to be reinvested in and be a competitor to The Save Mart Center,” Arias said.

As for the former hospital campus, Arias said it’s “a dying asset that’s begging for reinvestment.” Any investment would also benefit the next-door Huntington Boulevard neighborhood, he said. The Bee reached out to county officials for comment and will update this story.

The county previously secured a development deal to turn the UMC campus into housing, but that deal deteriorated when a key county staffer was arrested and charged with conflict of interest related to the deal. The city later pulled out of the deal.

Central Valley Fuego FC also has aggressively pursued buying the Selland Arena and Valdez Hall to build a soccer stadium. Those talks led the city to declare the properties surplus, essentially opening a Pandora’s box of opportunities and prompting additional offers. That’s when Sonnenblick and USA Wrestling made offers, Dyer said.

Councilmember Nelson Esparza noted that Fuego FC already had the chance to present its offer to the city council, so Thursday’s agenda items give Sonnenblick the same chance.

If city officials do decide to sell any of its properties, the city must issue a request for proposals and consider the public offers.

The mayor still is interested in seeing a soccer stadium in downtown because he believes the demand is there, he said.

“However this eventually turns out, the goal is to maximize the number of people that come downtown for entertainment, whether that’s soccer, baseball, concerts or any other activity,” Dyer said.

Sonnenblick also expressed interested in Chukchansi Park, Dyer said, but any deal there would be much more complicated because of the city’s debt owed and the bonds involved.

“That’s another example of an asset that would do much better financially and serve the residents better if it were held in private hands,” Sonnenblick said.

Overall, Dyer said lots of developers — both locally and from out of town — are interested in Fresno.

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

Read Original on GWIRE 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.”