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Litigation continues for failed arena

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Along the south side of Center Ice Parkway, rows of purple-leaf cabbage are starting to curl into heads.

On the north side of the road, heavy machinery clangs as it reduces rubble from the demolished hockey arena, which sat on the site, into road-building material.

In November, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch had the last of the walls of the never-completed hockey arena knocked down, removing an eyesore and potential safety hazard.

SMR bought the arena in a foreclosure sale after developer Sal Diaz-Verson Jr. failed to complete the project, or pay prime contractor Walbridge Aldinger for work done on the arena.

Plans for the arena, which would also host concerts and other entertainment, were formally announced in November 2003. It was estimated the project would cost between $46 million and $70 million.

Dreams die hard, and even though Diaz-Verson has lost his hockey arena, the litigation continues.

Diaz-Verson, whose DVA Arena LLC, is being sued by Walbridge Aldinger, Landmark Bank of Florida, and Charles F. Madden Jr., recently filed a notice of appeal in the final judgment of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Manatee County.

Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan in January denied Diaz-Verson’s motion of protective order and for an order to quash 15 non-party out-of-state notices to take depositions in the case.

Diaz-Verson advised the court that he plans to appeal to the Second District Court of Appeal.

Richard Marshall, vice president and regional manager of Walbridge Aldinger, said Tuesday, “There is a judgment,” in the case, but that his company still has not been paid millions of dollars it is due for work on the arena.

A message for Diaz-Verson, who has a University Park address according to court records, was not immediately returned Tuesday.

SMR officials have said they would still like to build an entertainment complex at Lakewood Ranch, when they find a suitable partner and the business climate is better.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021. Reporter Duane Marsteller contributed to this report.