The political process is over.
Let me say that again because it feels good…
The political process is over!
At 2pm this afternoon Seattle City Council is expected to grant final approval for plans to re-build Key Arena into a state of the art facility capable of hosting the NHL and NBA. With that vote the project will effectively shift from the political phase, wherein winning political approval has been their highest priority into a project construction phase where cost and schedule will dominate The Oak View Group’s day to day workload.
Sure the Sodo project may find a way back into the conversation later but for the moment, as it relates to the Seattle Center Arena, a decade long tradition of sports fans serving joint duty as political advocates will come to an end. Find a new reason to complain to city council or just settle into cheering for a while because they will not be needing public testimony or fan engagement with the government from this point forward.
I for one will not miss it.
The shift to construction will create new organizational priorities requiring different skillsets so expect to see some of the Oak View Group’s strategic leaders like Tim Leiweke step away from the spotlight, allowing their operational teams room to manage the myriad of details associated with construction.
At the same time OVG transitions from politics to construction Seattle Hockey Partners(SHP) will be going through a change of their own. Up until now their efforts have largely been focused on franchise application, operating with the primary goal of establishing a narrative of success to present to the NHL Board of Governors in New York:
- The arena is marching forward exactly as promised with no delays or problems.
- The fans support the project.
- The business community supports the project.
- City Government supports the project.
- The dollars will be there.
- Expansion is going to be a home run.
Assuming these messages are sent convincingly SHP will be able turn their attention away from building a narrative and towards the even larger goal of turning that narrative into a reality. They will have to staff up quickly, adding the entire infrastructure of a major league sports franchise in just 24 months and will have their work cut out for them to execute a business model capable of justifying the massive $1.3 billion investment that was necessary to get us this far.
Given these substantial changes of circumstance I expect OVG will begin to step away from the spotlight, ceding the center of attention to Tod Lieweke and Seattle Hockey Partners. These two organizations, which have to this point seemed largely interchangeable should further distinguish themselves as construction crew enter an 18 month frenzy towards completion and the incoming NHL expansion franchise looks to establish a lasting brand and identity in the community.
Tod Leiweke will to continue to emerge as the face of the franchise going forward. Since his hiring last April he has been increasingly visible, explaining the franchises values and actions in amazingly candid fashion on his recurring Tuesday’s with Tod segment at 6:20pm Tuesdays on KJR Sports Radio 950 and introducing members of the local ownership group who are expected to join him as public ambassadors of the project.
Long suffering fans should feel a real sense of relief today. Ending the political process is a major milestone worthy of celebration. Tod Leiweke is the pragmatic leader we’ve needed to make this fun again and OVG leadership is freed up, perhaps to focus on pursuit of an NBA franchise.
We’ve earned this. Time to cheer.