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KC's Sports Bar & Lounge is situated in a building dating from the 1880s. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ -- Investor Calvin Lee had expected to open KC's Sports Bar on lower Pacific Avenue by the time the Santa Cruz Warriors played their first game in the new arena a block away.

Now he and partner Kanten "KC" Venemon, former Clouds Downtown bar manager, are looking at next year.

They have a new architect, Christian Nielsen, who designed the Penny Ice Creamery, and a new family-friendly concept featuring wood-fired pizza from an oven by Mugnaini, the Watsonville company used by pizza establishments Engfer's and Bantam. Lee and Venemon also acquired a restaurant liquor license from I Love Sushi.

The men got feedback from the city in September and submitted plans for review last week. They need $350,000 for the buildout.

"So many people are waiting for this to open," Lee said.

"It's going to happen," said Nielsen. "We are excited about this space. It's unique. There's a great outdoor patio in the back, which is hard to come by in Santa Cruz, and the other great thing is having the Warrior stadium a block away."

Nielsen added that he is "grateful to work with business owners like Calvin and KC that are willing to take on the risks of opening businesses in underdeveloped areas."

Family-friendly development south of Laurel Street will help link downtown to activities at the Boardwalk and on the Municipal Wharf, Nielsen said. He noted that Abra Allen, who moved her Motion Pacific dance studio from Center Street to 131 Mill St., is "doing great" even though she is farther from downtown.

Convinced a makeover was the key to a turnaround for south of Laurel, Lee seized the opportunity two years ago to buy a loan held by the then-owner of The Avenue Bar.

"In bad times, people stay in town and they're looking for something to do," Lee said, describing business at nearby Surf City Billiards, where he's a co-owner, as good.

After starting on 711 Pacific Ave., he spent 14 months dealing with the former property owner in bankruptcy court, finally gaining possession in April. Meanwhile Walgreens opened a new store across the street in June and the Warriors arena was finished in less than three months.

The age of 711 Pacific Ave. -- Lee said it dates to 1880 -- meant he had to spend $150,000 to shore up the interior and put in new framing. He estimates the investment so far at between $700,000 and $900,000.

A former Golden State Warriors season ticket holder, Lee expects the Santa Cruz Warriors will bring more families downtown -- families who will want to enjoy pizza before or after the game and who would appreciate framed jerseys from Golden State Warriors players David Lee and Stephen Curry on the walls.

Lee said Wells Fargo is willing to invest once the construction is complete.

He has talked to "hard-money" lenders who want 10 percent interest, which he thinks is too high.

As an alternative, he is talking with the National Development Council, the nonprofit that administered Grow Santa Cruz Fund loans to create jobs. If he qualifies, the interest rate could be as low as 5.25 percent.

He estimates a fully staffed eatery and sports bar could create 50 part-time jobs.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz