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OVG hires former Seahawks exec for KeyArena redux

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-2nd Round-Gonzaga vs North Dakota State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group has added a new member to KeyArena redevelopment group, and it’s one that Seattle sports fans know quite well, even if they don’t recognize the name.

Oak View’s new Director of Special Projects is Lance Lopes, a former executive for the Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington. Lopes was Senior Associate Athletics Director for U-Dub and Senior Vice President of the Seahawks. He also served as General Counsel for the Seahawks as well as First & Goal and the Seattle Sounders FC. He was the “point person” on the WAMU Theater, working with AEG, which was at the time run by... Tim Leiweke. The two men also worked together to recruit Pete Carroll to coach the Seahawks.

“(His) work with the Seahawks, Sounders FC, the University of Washington and his presence in the community over the years has showcased his unique experience and skill set,” said Leiweke in a statement. “Lance is someone whose career I’ve observed with great admiration. We are fortunate to have him on the OVG team as we work to give Seattle the kind of arena this culturally rich city deserves.”

Lopes says Seattle Center is a perfect location, but also acknowledged that there will be traffic and transportation questions. In an interview with KING 5’s Chris Daniels, Lopes says OVG "still needs to evaluate what proposals look like, and do due diligence," but added that the current plan is to build out the existing KeyArena footprint in order to satisfy NBA and NHL criteria. He also pointed out that seating capacities have shrunk in many markets, specifically pointing to Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, which holds 17,500 for NBA games. That’s the second smallest arena in the league, but almost 500 more than KeyArena’s current capacity. It does not currently feature any kind of hockey arrangement, but NHL seating is usually around 1-2,000 less than NBA. Of course, Seattle is a much bigger market than Sacramento.

Lopes also says that he thinks KeyArena could “stand alone” as a music and entertainment venue, and said he does not see Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena as competition. "We're just trying to get work done and understand the scope of the project," he added. It’s still unknown how much a KeyArena plan might cost, or what percentage would be asked of the public.

OVG also hired ICON Venue Group to oversee the redesign. ICON has overseen $6 billion in arena renovations and construction, including Golden 1 Center and BMO Field, the site of tomorrow’s MLS Cup (GO SOUNDERS!). “I think it’s getting people to expand their imagination on what a redevelopment can look like,” Lopes told the Seattle Times on Thursday. “The transformation that you can undertake with these buildings now is really remarkable. There are a multitude of examples of great facilities in great locations — from Soldier Field in Chicago on down — that have been renovated into world-class facilities.”

OVG, as well as AEG, are expected to issue formal proposals for a KeyArena renovation in January, when Mayor Ed Murray issues a Request For Proposal. Murray has put a June 2017 deadline for the proposals to be fully vetted by city departments and a recommendation made, and is requiring traffic and parking mitigation to be a part of them. The city will then choose which project, be it one of the renovations or Chris Hansen’s 100% privately funded arena in Sodo, to move forward with.