Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke on Thursday dismissed a report that said Amazon is the leader among three finalist companies vying for naming rights at a rebuilt KeyArena, calling it “speculation.”
Sports Business Daily and the Puget Sound Business Journal, citing unnamed sources, said KeyArena project developer OVG and the team are seeking annual rights of roughly $14 million over an unspecified period of time and want a deal by June 1. The outlet did not mention which other two companies are involved, but the story quotes sources saying that, like Amazon, this would be those other companies’ first such sports deal.
“We don’t comment on speculation,” Leiweke said. “But like everything we’re doing with this arena, we’re taking our time to do it right and think about things differently. Discussions with partners are ongoing, and no announcement is imminent.”
Leiweke added that the team is contemplating a couple additional partnerships before turning its focus to the naming-rights situation.
“We’re not even close yet,” he said.
NHL Seattle deferred all public comment to OVG and Leiweke. Amazon did not respond to a request for a comment for this story.
Team sources have indicated one deal being considered ahead of naming rights would be an official technology partner. All arena sponsorships are being negotiated by the same five-member team that includes Leiweke, three additional OVG members and NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke.
Tim Leiweke said only one deal will be done at a time by that group, and the plan is to keep naming rights for the end.
The team, which begins play in October 2021, now plans to release its name and color scheme in March — ruling out a prior February possibility — after delays attributable mainly to extra diligence being done to confirm the name has no trademark issues. Progress is said to have been made on that front to where further delays are not anticipated.
Amazon has long been rumored a top candidate for the arena’s naming rights, given its size, stature within the community and the fact one of its top executives, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, is part of the hockey team’s minority ownership group. But it remains to be seen whether Amazon is comfortable taking on a large sports portfolio, something it appeared reluctant to do previously.
In November, the Seahawks signed a five-year contract with Amazon to make use of the company’s data gathering and analysis, automated video analysis and media-asset management. The Seahawks also moved a large portion of their IT systems from Microsoft Azure to Amazon Web Services.
The $14 million annual rights fee cited by the Sports Business Daily story would rank as an outlier — more than double the $6 million estimated as being paid annually over a 10-year naming-rights package from 2016 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. T-Mobile also reportedly is paying $3.5 million annually over 25 years as part of a December 2018 deal for the naming rights at the Mariners’ home ballpark, while CenturyLink in 2017 agreed to pay an average of $10.84 million over 15 seasons from 2019 through 2033 for rights to the Seahawks’ stadium.
Last week, Alaska Airlines agreed to purchase naming rights to the new glass atrium entrance to the arena, being added as part of a $930 million rebuild expected to finish in summer 2021. Terms of that deal were not disclosed, but the “Alaska Airlines Atrium’’ is expected to cost far less than the overall arena naming-rights package will.