Is anyone else getting a little nervous here? Is anyone else wondering how far down the list we are when it comes to KeyArena surprises?
I imagine if your last name is Leiweke, Xanax has become your friend. And I imagine if it keeps going like this, Propecia might be, too.
When the Oak View Group, founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, first won the bid to renovate KeyArena, construction costs were projected to be around $600 million. When Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan approved the renovation after a unanimous city-council vote, the number was $700 million.
When the NHL awarded Seattle a team last December, it had risen to $800 million. A couple months later, it was up to $850 million — and now? Between $900-930 million, according to NHL Seattle president, Tod Leiweke, Tim’s brother.
This is kind of like watching an auction except it’s the same bidder every time. It has taken less than seven months for an additional $200 million or so to be added to the projected tab, which is between $300-330 million more than the initial projection.
This isn’t meant to ascribe blame or imply incompetence. Not at all. The Leiwekes’ track record is as impressive as their ambition. But when they and chief financial backer David Bonderman all call this project the most challenging of their lives, you wonder when the challenges are going to end.
To OVG’s credit, it is committed to paying for everything. There has been no talk of asking for taxpayer money, which is a rarity in the arena/stadium game. And given Bonderman’s reported $3.3 billion net worth, I don’t think (which is much different from knowing for certain) that the cash will run out before the renovation is complete. But when exactly will that be?
As far as the people of Seattle are concerned, these rising costs are irrelevant. They’re not losing money on it, just the OVG folks. The more pressing issue for the people of Seattle is when KeyArena is going to open. Because the date has already been pushed back twice.
Once scheduled for October of 2020, it has been moved to at least June of 2021 — key words being “at least.”
Thursday, project executive Ken Johnsen said that it wouldn’t be until about this time next year that they could give a definitive target date. He emphasized that an undertaking of this size requires that you do it right and that you do it safely.
Agree 100 percent. Still, no solid target date until this time next year? Seems like a lot could happen over that span.
I don’t think anyone is being manipulative here. In fact, it appears the bigwigs have been rather transparent. But this is an extremely complicated endeavor fraught with unexpected problems that have been difficult (and expensive) to solve.
Obviously, it would be nice if the Storm could play in the renovated KeyArena in 2021, but that remains a maybe. Just as it’s a maybe if KeyArena will be ready to host the NHL Entry Draft and Expansion Draft in June of 2021.
But what about KeyArena being ready for the NHL in October of ’21? I wouldn’t call that a maybe. I’d call that a probably or even a highly likely.
With all the surprises so far, though, it’s hard to call it a definitely.