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Oak View Group named as KeyArena developer

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Dontae Delgado

Flanked by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and fellow OVG Executive Irving Azoff, OVG CEO Tim Leiweke very definitively stated: “We’re going to get you teams.”

The tone at the press conference today, one that was called by Mayor Murray to discuss the future of Key Arena, was one of hope, ambition, and some certainty.

Let’s give you some key bullet points from the press conference today:

  • OVG is not building just a sports arena, it is building a revitalization area within Seattle Center, that will house an entertainment and sports arena used to bring 1962 World's Fair level-excitement and appreciation to the greater Seattle Center area (and surrounding neighborhoods).
  • OVG (Leiweke, specifically) is confident that his partnerships (Populous, Boston Celtics Minority Owner David Bonderman, director Jerry Bruckheimer, LiveNation, Vancouver Canucks Chairman Francesco Aquilini, Florida Panthers Chairman Peter Luukko, and the Madison Square Garden Company) will give it the edge in many areas: Stakeholders that are on the boards of the NBA and NHL, experience in handling a multi-tiered schedule within an entertainment and sports venue, and an architecture firm that can fulfill the design asks of the city.
  • NHL-first will be the goal when it comes to OVG’s strategy with the city. Leiweke promised as such. In his own words, Leiweke stated that Key Arena will have “world class attendance” and that OVG is going to “get at least one sports team.”
  • Leiweke was less bullish about the NBA, as he definitely hesitated and chose his words regarding NBA expansion, carefully. As he stated, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said to him that the “current financial model for the NBA works for current NBA ownership (alluding to the new TV deal).” Leiweke mentioned that if that deal changes, then opportunities will arise for expansion. The goal is to show success with the NHL team, and using that as a way to show the NBA that a team will work in Seattle.
  • About the OVG Groups proposal winning out (over AEG and Hansen’s current deal): OVG was the best choice based on design, the ability to build an entirely new arena under the iconic roof, being able to keep the roof-line intact, and maintaining flexibility regarding future modifications.
  • Financial and transportation implications still can derail the deal. Negotiation is still needed regarding both. “No public funding” was a stance mentioned from both OVG and Murray. Given negotiations are needed in that area, Murray mentioned that there would be no bonds, but OVG and the city will discuss financial ideas similar to other sports teams in the area.
  • The ask from the city is that financially the deal makes sense, that the final design is well integrated in Seattle Center, that parking and transit plans are in place, and that OVG works with existing tenants.
  • Regarding Chris Hansen: Leiweke went out of his way to invite Hansen to join the OVG-led group, become part-owner of the eventual returning NBA team, and even vowed to support Hansen’s SoDo venture, if this current deal falls through.

There was a definitiveness to Murray and Leiweke’s speeches. They seem to be dead set on pushing this deal through and assuring that, though nothing is far from certain, and as Sonics great Lenny Wilkins put it, "If ever there was a chance for the Sonics to come back, this is it."

The group was certainly confident of the deal that had been struck and even more confident that this is a deal that, as Leiweke said, is “For Seattle, By Seattle, With Seattle." There is much work to be done, but nonetheless a positive day for Seattle hockey and basketball fans.

You can view the live tweets covering the press conference on the Sonics Rising Twitter page and follow the official announcement of OVG’s NHL owenership partners: here.