“An unbelievable thing happened,” Tod Lieweke told Seattle Rotary on May 31. “I was here and I couldn’t believe it, (the Sonics) moved to another city and it broke our collective hearts.”
For a group that is hellbent on not getting ahead of league commissioners, buried with design and construction work, and preparing for the launch of hockey, Tod Leiweke and his team sure spend a lot of time talking about basketball. In their press conference last week to provide design updates and announce the selection of Skanska Hunt as their general contractor, nearly half the time available for commentary and questions was spent discussing the return of the NBA.
”We’re assuming at some point or another there may be an opportunity to chase an NBA team,” Tim Leiweke explained in response to a question about escalating project costs. ”If Adam Silver comes to us and tells us there might be an opportunity, we’re building in all of the prerequisite, and all of the minimum standard space dictated to by the NBA into this arena already, so all of the locker rooms were added on, we added additional space back of house for storage, because you’ve got to store courts.”
”Tim and Tod directed us, make sure we do not compromise basketball in this building,” added Tim Romani, CEO of CAA Icon, before providing a detailed explanation of how the new arena’s basketball configuration would compare to other top-tier NBA facilities.
In addition to allocating significant money and space to accommodate the NBA in their playing facility, the ownership group put together by David Bonderman is expected to make similar design accommodations for an NBA team in their much anticipated practice facility. It’s another significant expense that won’t be recouped until an NBA team is acquired.
When asked about their prospects of landing an NBA franchise, as always, the group was careful not to get ahead of league officials but re-iterated that NBA owners and leadership in New York continue to pay close attention to strength of our market. They are very aware of the massive levels of fan and corporate support coalescing around this arena and the launch of the NHL.
”We’ve got to be unbelievably respectful to both the NHL and the NBA in the processes, but the thing we’ve got to do, more important than anything, is create an arena that is a beacon for success for those goals,” Tod told SonicsRising in June.
”I will say that on March 1st they heard the message from Seattle.” he said at last week’s press conference. ”37 thousand depositors placed deposits on tickets, and that’s the strongest message we could have sent. “
”We already have an NBA ownership group,” added Tim. ”David Bonderman is an NBA owner. He owns 10% of the Boston Celtics. He has made it very clear, and I’ll repeat on his behalf, he is prepared to go buy and bring a team here if and when the commissioner indicates they need us to respond.”
Investor Jerry Bruckheimer believes his partner’s long established relationship with the league will give their ownership an advantage when a team eventually does come available.
”When you look at David Bonderman and his relationship with the NBA, he’s got a phenomenal relationship with them,” Bruckheimer told SonicsRising. ”He’s part owner of Boston. He’s been with Adam and the entire team for many, many years. They like him. They know he’s a quality individual. He stands for what he believes in and that’s what you need. You need somebody like that to be at the forefront of bringing any franchise to a city. He puts his money where his mouth is and it’s really important.”
”They know they have somebody they can trust. They want somebody that has been around and has a stellar relationship with the league. “
The goal, according to all parties, is to be ready when the commissioner calls.
”We know we have three things that ultimately will bode well should a team become available, or should we decide to look at expansion,” Tim explains. ”First: the best market in all of North America without an NBA team, and we just proved that with what we’ve seen with hockey. Second: an ownership group that can write the check tomorrow. Three: a building that can maximize revenue and keep this team in the top third of the NBA in gross revenue without having to write a check for a billion dollars to build their own arena….This arena and it’s ownership group have been designed to take advantage of that opportunity should it come our way.”
Everybody involved in this project has rejected speculation that their ownership group is focused solely on hockey and music.
”We have said this publicly and will say it again,” Bonderman told KIRO 710 earlier this year. ”If there is a chance for an NBA franchise, we are going to be first in line trying to get it for the city of Seattle and for this arena.”
”The NBA, as you know, is one of the best events. It’s one of the great sports. I’m close friends with Pat Riley and a whole lot of his games are down in Miami, so I’m a big, big fan,” Bruckheimer has told SonicsRising
”I’ll be clear on this, we absolutely want the NBA,” says Tod Leiweke.
Another milestone on the ascent to NHL 2020: Today we announce the General Contractor for the redevelopment of the Seattle Center Arena.Posted by NHLSeattle on Tuesday, July 31, 2018
OVG and Seattle Hockey Partners press conference, July 31, 2018