With ties to both the NHL and NBA, Oak View Group and Anschutz Entertainment Group seem to have the upper hand when it comes to where Seattle could build a world-class arena.
Shake your head if you want to. Clench your fists if it helps you vent.
No doubt most of the pro Sodo Arena contingent did as much Wednesday morning.
But regardless of your feelings on the matter, you have to acknowledge the truth: In business, relationships are everything.
Maybe this is an example of living in the moment, but it’s hard to think KeyArena doesn’t have a comfortable lead in the clubhouse right now. If a state-of-the-art, NBA/NHL facility is to be built in this town, Seattle Center appears to be the likely destination.
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Are there a lot of locals wary of such news? Sure. They wonder if the city has any clue what it’s doing.
But that may be irrelevant. Because the groups behind the proposed KeyArena renovations know the right people.
As you are likely aware of by now, Oak View Group and Anschutz Entertainment Group each submitted proposals to overhaul KeyArena on Wednesday. OVG projected a $564 million, privately financed remodel, whereas AEG pitched a $520 million plan that would likely call for some public bonding.
Both businesses produced exquisite renderings that reflected their reputation for building world class arenas. But it wasn’t the “what” that jumped out Wednesday so much as the “who.”
OVG, for instance, announced that it had signed a concessionaire agreement with Delaware North, owned by Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of the NHL’s board of governors. It is also partnering with concert promotion behemoth LiveNation, and is exploring the idea of landing Pearl Jam as an “extended resident.” In terms of trying to sell a plan to the city, that team might as well be The Avengers.
AEG, meanwhile, announced a partnership with Hudson Pacific, which is owned by Victor Coleman. Coleman, if you remember, twice sought to be an NHL owner at the Sodo Arena Chris Hansen envisions. In terms of roster depth, AEG’s whales might not be as sexy as OVG’s. But as far securing a team goes — both groups seem to be ahead of Hansen’s.
OVG in particular.
At this point, it appears Seattle is exponentially more likely to land an NHL franchise before it gets one from the NBA. The most basic reason being that the NHL has 31 teams and needs one more for an even number. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has also said multiple times that he has no immediate plans for expansion. And while it’s possible his on-the-record answers differ from his off-the-record plans, ask yourself — would NBA owners really want to split money on their nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with two other organizations?
No, for the moment, slap shots look as though they would get here before jump shots. And given that OVG CEO Tim Leiweke served on the NHL’s board of governors (not to mention the NBA’s) he has a more direct line to the league.
Remember, it’s about relationships.
Hansen has been admirably — even inspirationally — earnest in his quest to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. But you have to wonder if his clear NBA-first mentality irked NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Nobody likes to be deemed second fiddle publicly, even if it’s understood privately. So in that respect, it’s advantage KeyArena.
But even if the NBA were on the table, it’s hard to argue against OVG and AEG’s connections. Leiweke was with AEG when it built Staples Center and remains chummy with many of the league’s owners.
It’s doubtful that picking a site that would bring hockey to town would preclude hoops from coming later. You simply can’t dismiss the KeyArena groups’ track record — whether it be with the NBA or anywhere else.
Of course, people still have their concerns about the logistics of KeyArena, and those concerns are fair. Former Seahawk Lance Lopes, OVG’s Director of Special Projects, says an independent study has identified about11,000 parking spaces in the area and asserts that technology — such as apps that reserve spaces — will help resolve parking issues, but much of that is faith-based for now.
It’s also unclear who the ownership groups would be for an NHL or NBA team should either come to the Key, but then again … it’s unclear whether Hansen could secure/afford a team himself.
What does seem clear is that both KeyArena groups are intent on bringing a team of some sort to Seattle. It seems highly unlikely that a music-only venue would be worth a $500 million-plus investment.
The city is going to have to make some choices soon. Seattle Center or Sodo. AEG, OVG or Chris Hansen and friends.
And while you’d like to think the decision will come down to “what’s their plan?” The bigger factor will be “who do they know?”