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December 8, 2009

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Expo arena gets Mercedes-Benz as sponsor, NBA as a main act

National Basketball Association pre-season games will be held starting in 2011 in the World Expo Shanghai Performance Center, which will be renamed the Mercedes-Benz Arena after the Expo 2010.

The top official of NBA China made the announcement yesterday as the German auto maker became the naming-rights partner of the arena.

The naming rights will last for 10 years, the companies said in a statement.

"NBA will be bringing various exciting NBA programming including NBA preseason games, other basketball activities, and partner initiatives such as NBA Jam Van, Tsingtao Cheerleader Dance Competition and Mengniu-NBA Basketball Reality Show starting in 2011," said Chen Yongzheng, CEO of NBA China. However, he did not mention the specifics of programming.

In a videotape played during the naming ceremony on a cruise near the arena construction site along the Huangpu River, Chinese NBA player Yao Ming said he was eager to play in the new arena in his hometown Shanghai.

Other sports and pop stars, including NBA player Kobe Bryant and singer Celine Dion, also appeared on video to say they were looking forward to performing in the arena.

The multi-purpose entertainment venue - the main stage for the Expo - will be jointly operated by the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group, a cultural and entertainment company and the owner of the Oriental Pearl Tower; AEG, a leading sports and entertainment presenter based in the United States; and NBA.

The arena will be the only Mercedes-Benz-named venue outside of Germany.

At 120,000 square meters, the 18,000-seat multi-purpose Mercedes-Benz Arena will be the largest comprehensive performance arena in China.

The seashell-shaped venue will be one of the five permanent buildings on the Expo site, along with the China Pavilion, Theme Pavilion, Expo Center and Expo Boulevard.

The center will have two floors underground and four above, with a basketball court built to NBA standards.

The venue will also house a six-screen movie cineplex, a public ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a live music club, 20,000 square meters of mixed use retail space with 82 luxury suites and many VIP clubs, and a 1,000-square-meter Mercedes-Benz retail outlet.

Klaus Maier, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz in China, said the arena will reinforce Shanghai as a culturally rich city on the world map.

Niu Weiping, president of the Oriental Pearl Group, predicted the arena will be world-famous, along the lines of the Staples Center in the United States and the O2 Arena in London.

"Mercedes-Benz is a world-renowned brand that represents luxury and innovation, and we are delighted that this state-of-the-art arena and new landmark for Shanghai will bear its name," said John Cappo, president and CEO of AEG China.


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