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Is Beijing’s basketball arena really worth $100 million?

Tim Leiweke, head of AEG, thinks so. It’s all part of a big plan to help the NBA expand its presence in China.
It is well known the NBA wants to have a bigger presence in China. The league now has a bureau there — NBA China — and will play a pair of preseason games there in October.

AEG, the Los Angeles based sports marketing firm, wants to tag along with the renewed interest in athletics there. Tim Leiweke, AEG president, is in charge of procuring a naming rights fee for Wukesong Arena, where the basketball competition was held last month. Leiweke thinks somebody will pay $100 million to have the company name affixed on the arena. The arena would be just the start of AEG’s presence in the country. Eventually, they would like to build other venues and run them in the country.

AEG currently owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. AEG is also involved in several other enterprises, such as the 02 Arena in London.

So it knows a thing or two about running buildings. It also is partnering with the NBA in operating and managing the 18,000-seat indoor stadium in west Beijing. Hence, it has a dual interest in makng the arena a success and finding somebody willing to be associated with the place.

Basketball in China is growing. More leagues are forming and the NBA’s presence (helped by two Chinese natives in the league) is major help. But $100 million is a lot of money, no matter what currency it comes in.

Leiweke has a major challenge on his hands finding someone who has that kind of money to spend. If he succeeds, he may make any gold medal won there last month pale in comparison.