The new American Airlines Center in Dallas sets a new standard for minority participation in construction and operations.
For Adam Trevino, a successful bid on a project tied to the new $420 million American Airlines Center in Dallas was a significant milestone. The $2.5 million contract for the center’s parking garage amounted to approximately 10 percent of Trevino Mechanical Contractors’ revenues last year.
“It helped us tremendously. It was a big-profile job,” says Mr. Trevino, who at the time was vice-president of the company. “I think it exposed us to a lot more business opportunities.”
Mr. Trevino, now president of Vortex Construction, was among more than 105 minority business leaders whose firms participated in construction of American Airlines Center, a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment arena. The 840,000-square-foot arena’s construction and operation have been hailed for their landmark commitment to minority- and women-owned businesses. The project’s original minority participation goal, set at 25 percent, was quickly surpassed, and minority firms won contracts for 37 percent of the total work on the facility and its current operations. In all, contracts worth $94 million were awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses during the building and development phase, excluding the cost of land and improvements, according to officials.
The center, which opened in July, is home to the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and the Dallas Stars hockey team. It also is a venue for concerts and other entertainment and serves as anchor to the mile-long, 72-acre Victory development, which will eventually house up to 8 million square feet of entertainment facilities, shops, homes, and businesses. Like most venues in the country, American Airlines Center has grappled with a new emphasis on public safety. “We have taken steps to increase security for all events,” says Dave Brown, general manager of the center. The measures include more police officers, no backpacks, inspection of personal articles, and elimination of curbside parking.
The project first launched in 1998, when Dallas voters approved the city’s participation in the development of American Airlines Center. Officials established a minority participation goal of 25 percent as part of a fair-share agreement between the city and the Center Operating Co. (COC), the organization responsible for developing and managing American Airlines Center.
Two years later, minority participation is evident in every phase of the project, from construction to concessions. Moreover, the fair-share agreement extends to the entire Victory development, and minority firms have been encouraged to bid on a variety of contracts.
Diversity was an essential component of the center from its inception, says Minerva Hernandez-Hinkle, assistant vice-president in the office of minority affairs at COC. She credits the originators of the arena, Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks, for setting the project on its path.
“We were successful because we had the commitment of the ownership,” says Ms. Hernandez-Hinkle. “When the leadership understands the importance of having minority diversity, then you will have success.”
Martin Burrell, vice-president of the office of minority affairs, agrees. “A lot of people say things, but they only provide lip service and don’t follow through,” he says. “In this case, the owners supported the program.”
Mr. Burrell emphasizes that the community’s support was essential to the project’s success. “We had to convince the community that this was what they wanted – and we made a commitment that the minority community would benefit,” he continues. “It has had an impact. Anytime you put $90 million in the hands of a community, you have a tremendous impact.”
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