US owner for Arena

London Arena, the Docklands entertainment venue which went into receivership three years ago, is about to be bought by the company which runs the world's biggest American football stadium.

The Arena, on the Isle of Dogs, is on the verge of being bought by SMG Arena Management. A deal for an undisclosed sum should be settled shortly with receivers Price Waterhouse.

Bob Rice, the American general manager for SMG at its other major British venue, the Sheffield Arena, said yesterday: 'We are very close to a deal. I believe that things will be finalised over the next month.'

He said there was a demand for a large entertainment and business venue in the area. 'Obviously, we have to find out what the demand is. But the Arena is a good opportunity for local business trade. And with over 12,000 seats it should attract major entertainers.'

He was optimistic that the access and transport problems which hindered the Arena were no longer an issue.

'Some of the transport problems have corrected themselves. The area is no longer such a construction site.

'Such potential problems will be a focus for us before we open. We will not open the facility until we are certain that it is the way it should be.'

The company, based in Philadelphia, manages 36 arenas in America, including the 87,500-seat Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, home of the the Superbowl NFL championships, and the LA Memorial Coliseum in California, where the Olympics have twice been staged.

London Arena was conceived as a showpiece sports and entertainments venue, and hosted stars like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Duran Duran and Frank Sinatra before it crashed after just two years in 1991.

When it collapsed with debts of more than pounds 25million, the venue was said to have received pounds 500,000 from Tower Hamlets borough council and the Sports Council of Great Britain to set up sports facilities and an athletics training programme for the local community.

Since last June, when the receivers opened up for limited trading, a number of small conferences and basketball tournaments have been held there.

The Arena's general manager, Nicky Dunn, said: 'We are confident that the deal with SMG will go through.'

(Photographs omitted)

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