Katz Group’s ‘TheDome’ dream hit Fraport wall



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Frankfurt Fraport is looking for investors Image: Katz Group

Canada’s Katz Group’s dream of building one of Europe’s largest multifunctional arenas next to one of the continent’s busiest airports in the German City of Frankfurt remains to be realized with Fraport AG extending its expression of interest survey deadline for building the arena from January 22nd, 2021 to February 15th, 2021.

The deadline extension was confirmed by a spokesman for the airport operator company recently.

Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide, commonly known as Fraport, is a German transport company which operates Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt am Main and holds interests in the operation of several other airports around the world.

Fraport AG’s extension of deadline is seen as the global airport business company’s need to ensure that companies that have expressed interest, prove themselves – that is provide evidence that interested parties have already successfully built and operated event halls elsewhere – before the contract is awarded.

The Katz Group, one among a few other companies that had expressed interest, had earlier submitted the project-related development plan to the City Planning Office, Frankfurt, for constructing TheDOME, a planned multifunctional 23,000-capacity arena.

Katz Group is one of Canada’s leading privately-owned firms, with operations in sports and entertainment, real estate, and public and private investment.

‘TheDOME’ is the latest in a series of proposed new arena projects in Frankfurt. It is emerging as a rival arena project to a multifunctional facility being planned in Kaiserlei – a railway station in the municipality of Offenbach am Main, located in Hesse, Germany.

The sports and culture venue which Katz Group has been promoting for years would also include a small hall for up to 4,500 visitors, a hotel for 250 to 300 people, rooms, and a parking garage all at a cost of 330 million Euros.

The reason that the Fraport spokesman gave for the extension was that some interested parties had “pandemic-related” difficulties in submitting the documents required for qualified participation in the procedure within the original deadline.

“We are thus taking the current situation into account,” he added.

Although a further extension has been ruled out, the spokesman did not want to reveal any details regarding the number of expressions of interest offered so far, nor about how many more could be expected, thanks to the extension of the deadline.

With the simplified procedure of the market survey, Fraport is looking for an investor and operator for a large arena on the approximately 30,000 square meter area on the periphery of Frankfurt Airport. The investor is to take over the site, which currently has no direct economic benefit for Fraport, by way of a long lease and, according to the airport operator, plan, build and operate the major project “in coordination with Fraport, the City of Frankfurt and other authorities, associations and companies”.

In the end, according to the Fraport spokesman, the best “business case” decides.

Specifically, the business prospect which best projects profitable returns on investment and presents top-end solutions and strategies for the various effects of the project on the airport, the infrastructure and the entire region, has the best chances of winning.

Fraport AG wants to contain the risks as regards traffic regulation and an increase in traffic flow.

As foreseen, a problem that is sure to arise once the arena opens up as a sports and entertainment venue is the sharp increase in traffic. So far, the road and public transport connections and their dimensions had been designed for visitors and employees to the airport. It would now be up to the investor to come up with a feasible plan to increase public transport to the venue without obstructing flow of traffic to the airport.

The “safety aspect” is also one of the effects. According to the spokesman, Fraport must contain the subjective risk of, in the worst case, having a hall on its own property, the investors and operators of which have moved on.

“Fraport cannot be interested in this,” the spokesman emphasized.

The domestic second division ice hockey team, Löwen Frankfurt, and the national volleyball division United Volleys, have time and again stressed on the importance of this project which would provide a large arena for their games and tourneys.

On the other hand, Frankfurt politicians have not been forthcoming in their approval for the airport project. Sports and Economics Department head Markus Frank (CDU) had always emphasized that the City need not take a call on this as it was not their property on which TheDOME is to be built.

Members of the Left-wing faction of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the SPD Roman faction, have as one supported the project and have publicly called for its implementation – but to no avail.

One will have to wait and watch to see whether it’s the Katz Group or some other top class firm in the events industry that lives up best to Fraport AG’s expectations.

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