Tim Leiweke, president of the Oak View Group who is looking to renovate KeyArena, appeared on the Brock and Salk radio show this morning. Among the topics discussed were said renovation, as well as Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena. Here are some excerpts;
"Let’s take a deep breath, let’s bring the smartest people that we could possibly find to analyze whether or not Seattle Center and an arena can work there and if it does, we are prepared to go finance it and fund it privately without a franchise. We will make it work standalone on all the other events."
The most interesting thing about that quote is the "we are prepared to go finance it and fund it privately without a franchise." This is the first time we’ve heard any mention of how a renovation would be financed, and hearing that it would be done so privately is greatly encouraging, considering Hansen’s would be as well. It’s also quite interesting to hear that they would be willing to renovate the Key without a franchise, basically doing the whole thing on spec and making it work in the interim with only concerts and other events. As far as Chris Hansen’s arena, Leiweke had this to say:
"We are not here to ultimately rain on their parade. This is not an us-against-them scenario. Seattle is a phenomenal music marketplace, Seattle is a phenomenal sports marketplace. We’re prepared to take a private risk and build an arena without an anchor tenant, which, in that case, means the leagues are chasing you, you’re not chasing the leagues. And that’s how you get teams.
"And if, at that point, Chris wants an NBA team, he’s more likely to get one and he can take it. Not only will we not stand in his way, we will do everything humanly possible to make it work economically.
"We are fans of Chris. We are friends with Chris. I admire Chris and (SoDo partner Wally Walker). This is not a competition and we’ve made it very clear. We have no intention, our purpose here is not to own the team. Our purpose here is to help bring a team here."
This is extremely enlightening as well. Leiweke not only said that his group does not want to be owners of any sports team, but that they would welcome Chris Hansen to own an NBA franchise in their new arena. In fact, Leiweke said that they are unable to own a franchise.
"One of my partners is Madison Square Garden. They already own an NBA team and they already own an NHL team, so we are prohibited from owning a team. We want to be the catalyst so this might be the best day Chris ever had because we might be able to solve the facility issue without him spending $700 million or $800 million. And so we don’t want to stand in Chris’ way and, in fact, we want to encourage Chris, and if you look at the process in the last two months, the reality is the deal is only going to get better for the taxpayers and only going to get better for Seattle because that’s what competition will do. This is a friendly competition and our goal is actually Chris’ goal. And Chris, Wally, myself and Lance, we agree on one thing: We’d like to see the return of the NBA or the NHL."
Leiweke’s Oak View Group is meeting tomorrow with Tim Romani of ICON Venture Group, who is overseeing the renovation, and Chris Carver of POPULOUS, the architecture firm who designed Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena, Denver’s Pepsi Center, and Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, among many others.
"I don’t know whether or not at the end of the day the footprint could be expanded, the capacity could be expanded and the square footage can ultimately be expanded in order to meet the minimum standards of the NBA and the NHL, but I know Tim Romani and I know Chris Carver, and they are the two smartest guys I know about arenas and they tell me they believe it could be done, and they’re going to do an exhaustive project here and we’re going to put in literally seven figures in order to make sure that we flush this out to see if we, in fact, can build a world-class arena that will be acceptable to the NHL and the NBA at the Seattle Center."
This is all very encouraging news. It sounds like one way or another, we will have a new(ish) arena in the Seattle area soon. Then it will be up to the NBA and NHL to put teams in it. It’s encouraging to hear that all the parties have the same goal and that goal is to return two more professional sports leagues to our great city.
Hear the whole interview here: http://sports.mynorthwest.com/category/podcast_player/?a=10013632&sid=1007&n=Brock%20and%20Salk