Former NBA player sues DFW Airport over lack of development around sports complex

A former NBA player says he spent millions to build a sports facility on a property at DFW Airport because the airport promised development around him. He's now filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the airport.     

Former NBA player Jermaine O’Neal built the Drive Nation Sports Facility at the southern end of the airport. He says he built it on airport property because they promised development around him. Now, he’s suing because he says the airport did not keep its word.

"This process has left me feeling upset, disappointed," he said. 
O’Neal settled in North Texas after his playing days were done. Wanting to grow young players, he built his sports facility.

"I originally had a deal in the city of Keller," he said.

O’Neal and attorney Victor Vital say it was supposed to be for a 99-year lease. But he was approached by the airport with plans for a mix-use development.

"They told me the direction they were going into which was first-of-its-kind mix-use development on the south side of the airport, which was intriguing to me," he recalled.

O'Neal entered into a 40-year lease with the airport and spent close to $14 million of his own money to build the Drive Nation Complex.

A drawing Vital says is from the airport to O'Neal depicted the planned development.

"What it would look like and what was laid out," Vital said. "Unfortunately, what ended up happening is we got a sea of warehouses and gas stations connected with a Whataburger."

In a statement, the airport wrote: "DFW Airport is aware that Drive Nation Sports has filed a lawsuit in regard to its lease agreement with the airport. At this time, the airport has no additional comment regarding the lawsuit."

"Essentially, the lawsuit is they were selling Jermaine a bill of goods in a manner of speaking empty promises," Vital said.

O'Neal says a national company who he would not name wanted to buy his Drive Nation if he could get his 40-year lease extended by 15 years. He could not.

"So we moved forward, but it was only based on what they were saying they couldn't legally do," he said.

But O’Neal and his attorney say they have proof that there are other tenants at the airport who have longer leases.

"Absolutely," Vital said. "And we lay that out in the lawsuit. What they told him is false."

O’Neal went to the NBA in 1996 right out of high school. He’s accustomed to contests on a basketball court, but this contest will play out on a different court.