The Big Mac Blog

Cuban’s AAC problem began with the Dallas Stars

The American Airlines Center opened in downtown Dallas in the 2001.
The American Airlines Center opened in downtown Dallas in the 2001.

Following the Texas Rangers and the city of Arlington’s lead to determine when a sports stadium is an out-dated piece of junk, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is thinking about a new home for his toy.

This week, the Dallas City Council approved zoning near the design district in downtown, right next to the Mavs’ new practice facility. It will open up possibilities for Cuban to build a new arena. Just not as soon as he wants.

Because something that opened in 2001 must be torn down and replaced, preferably yesterday. The way these building projects go, 30 years is about the lifespan of arenas in the modern era, which is insane.

The reason Cuban is interested in a new arena other than the American Airlines Center, which opened in ’01, is parking, but the main culprit here is the Dallas Stars.

When Cuban purchased the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr., the AAC was part of the package and included the sale price. The building was not complete when he bought the team on Jan. 4, 2000 for $285 million, but it was well on its way.

It is preposterous now, but the AAC was originally designed and built more for hockey than basketball, with a particular emphasis on architectural design.

“It was built for the cameras at the opening ceremony,’ one Dallas Stars front office executive told me. He was not happy when he said it.

Perot Jr. wanted to stress a pretty building, and the AAC is just that for a sports arena. It has tall windows, several points of entry, attractive trusses, and plenty of dead space. In the four corners of the concourses are pretty but ineffective spaces stretching from the floor to the ceiling.

The AAC lacks the normal amount of space for a surplus of niche food and drink possibilities, which have become staples of the modern-day sports/entertainment building.

And, for a Dallas Mavericks home game, the sight lines for too many of the seats are less than ideal.

When the building was designed, the Stars were the hot team and owned by Tom Hicks, who then was more influential and motivated than Perot Jr., who saw the Mavs as just another asset in his portfolio. He didn’t care about the team the way the original owner of the Mavs, Don Carter, or certainly Cuban, does.

But shortly after both teams re-located from Reunion Arena to the AAC, the hockey team began its slide while the basketball team took off.

Now the building is 16 years old and in fine working order. There is zero wrong with it, and it’s not too dated. But it’s not a basketball-priority arena, and the Mavs are Cuban’s priority.

Cuban’s additional frustration is the extensive parking around the AAC has been filled in with development, mostly apartment and condo space. All of that good parking is gone, which has made going to a game more cumbersome.

Cuban told reporters he will look into the team breaking a lease with the AAC, but that he doesn’t think there are any opportunities there. The lease does not expire until the summer of 2031.

Assuming the lease is solid, the earliest Cuban can move forward on a new building is 2026. He would be about 66 then, and who knows where his energy and interest-level will be in running the franchise?

Just because he has no interest in selling a team he has used to gain celebrity and a platform to make Mark Cuban a brand now, he could change his mind.

But using the Rangers’ time line of moving out of their current Ballpark into a new one, a 30-year life is the new normal for a sports’ arena these days. It’s insane but it is the reality, which means the Mavs can actually start to ponder a new home without the Stars.