Lance Lopes, 53, was the Seahawks’ general counsel for 13 years, overseeing operations for them and later the Sounders as well at CenturyLink Field starting in 2000. He headed the search committee that brought Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to Seattle.
A group looking to overhaul KeyArena for NBA and NHL use has hired a major global arena-development firm and longtime local sports executive to oversee the project.
The Oak View Group, headed by Tim Leiweke, has added former Seahawks and University of Washington executive Lance Lopes to oversee the KeyArena bid effort while ICON Venue Group will head the redesign proposal. ICON was instrumental in the recent two-year, $120 million overhaul of BMO Field in Toronto — the site of Saturday’s MLS Cup final between the Sounders and Toronto FC — and has overseen more arena designs worldwide than any other company.
Lopes, 53, was the Seahawks’ general counsel for 13 years, overseeing operations for them and later the Sounders as well at CenturyLink Field starting in 2000. He headed the search committee that brought Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to Seattle. Upon leaving the team, Lopes served as senior associate athletic director at the University of Washington from 2014 through last summer.
“For us, we wanted to find somebody that’s from Seattle,’’ Leiweke said Thursday. “Somebody that knows all the different players, somebody that understands the marketplace, the need. And not only the need for a new arena, but also the process that we’re going to have to go through in order to make that happen.”
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Leiweke said it isn’t just a matter of dealing with city politicians and the mayor’s office, something Lopes has experience with. It’s also dealing with local stakeholders in Lower Queen Anne and figuring out solutions “at the community level” to make a renovated arena work.
“For us, I think there are a lot of stakeholders here,’’ he said. “One of the things I like about Lance is, he has relationships and understanding and experience and the knowledge in all aspects of the various relationships.”
Beyond his Seattle work, Lopes was vice president and general counsel for the Green Bay Packers from 1993-2000 and has served as vice president of corporate development for StubHub. He said a major challenge will be convincing Seattle sports fans that KeyArena indeed can be transformed into a first-class facility unrecognizable from its current shape.
“I think it’s getting people to expand their imagination on what a redevelopment can look like,” he said. “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.”
Lopes added that finding solutions to traffic issues around KeyArena also will require significant work. He said the group will wait until the city issues a request for renovation proposals before engaging in specifics on that front.
As for any redesign, ICON has overseen $6 billion in arena projects in all major sports leagues — including the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Staples Center in Los Angeles, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and ongoing restorations of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena and Vivint SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, home of the Utah Jazz.
The City of Seattle announced last month that it will issue proposal requests to renovate KeyArena early next year. The Oak View Group and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) — based in Los Angeles — have announced plans to respond to those proposals.
There is also to be a revamped, all-privately-funded Sodo District arena proposal submitted by entrepreneur Chris Hansen at roughly the same time. Hansen’s group recently announced that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has signed on as a financial investor.
A two-page letter to the city by Hansen’s group on Thursday stated that any conditional street vacation of Occidental Avenue South given him to build his arena would only be used if an NBA or NHL team is acquired first. City council members had expressed reservations about granting Hansen the street before he has a team — fearing the street might be sacrificed for nothing.
The city has set a June deadline for firms to respond to the KeyArena proposal requests with detailed project plans that include mitigation ideas for parking and traffic issues. From there, the city will choose between the KeyArena and Sodo projects as to which site will serve as the location for the city’s main sports and entertainment arena going forward.
Leiweke was head of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in Toronto and instrumental in spearheading the BMO Field renovation that ICON managed to completion this year.
“They are the smartest guys in the business when it comes to this sort of stuff,” Leiweke said, adding ICON understands NHL and NBA minimum standards and is valued by both leagues for its arena work. “And yes, in Toronto, they proved at the end of the day that they had the ability of taking an old building and thinking outside the box and building something special.”