The Oak View Group says its renovation proposal can proceed without NBA or NHL teams for now because of the concert revenue its Live Nation deal would provide. The partnership also is exploring an “extended residency’’ deal with legendary rock band Pearl Jam.
A major music and equity partnership with Live Nation is what’s allowing one of the two KeyArena renovation groups to proceed without first landing teams.
The Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG) lacks the sheer financial staying power of the partnership between rival Anschutz Entertainment Group and real-estate giant Hudson Pacific Properties. But OVG says its $564 million renovation proposal can nonetheless proceed without NBA or NHL teams for now because of the concert revenue its Live Nation deal would provide.
Beyond a regular stable of shows provided by the world’s largest concert promotions company, the partnership has begun exploring an “extended residency’’ deal with legendary rock band Pearl Jam that would see it play multiple KeyArena shows on a regular basis, much like Billy Joel does at Madison Square Garden in New York. Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis has been added to an OVG advisory board exploring how to improve KeyArena’s acoustics and overall concert experience.
“If we don’t have their partnership here and we’re not able to do 40-plus nights of music and we don’t have Pearl Jam … we couldn’t stand on our own two feet and take this risk,’’ OVG CEO Tim Leiweke said. “We’re going to build it, and we believe they (teams) will come. And if they don’t come, we’re not going to get killed.’’
The Pearl Jam inclusion resulted from a meeting between the band and top OVG officials at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Among the OVG members conversing with Pearl Jam was OVG co-founder and legendary music manager Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden (MSG) chairman James Dolan — OVG’s main financial backer.
The group also mentioned it loved the acoustics at Dolan’s renovated MSG. It also discussed loving the MSG-renovated Forum in Inglewood, Calif., telling them: “We loved that, do that in Seattle,’’ Leiweke said, relaying the conversation.
Leiweke added that Dolan and Azoff told the band they planned to do exactly that with their KeyArena remodel. Leiweke said Pearl Jam initially asked if the KeyArena remodel could be for music only, but they were told no, that it would be for music and sports just like MSG.
“So Kelly Curtis, the manager, agreed to serve on the advisory board and help us make it the perfect music experience,’’ Leiweke said. “And the band … would love to do an extended residency kind of idea because they still believe Seattle is their home city.
“For us it changes the game completely,’’ Leiweke said. “Because now we go back to the premise of ‘We’re going to do this and stand on our own two feet.’ And we believe that by doing that we give Seattle its best chance to get one or two teams.’’
The development is interesting, given that new OVG partner Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010. Pearl Jam had a well-known, longstanding feud with Ticketmaster dating to the 1990s over service fees the ticketing firm piled on to concert tickets.
Leiweke knows there are fans here worried he’s too preoccupied by the arena’s concert potential and won’t be interested in acquiring teams if he can make money off concerts. He laughed off those suggestions, saying: “We couldn’t make it work 20 years as a standalone.’’
He said the huge amount of money his group is spending on the remodel can’t be recouped long term via only music.
“The Forum works (without sports) because Jim (Dolan) spent some 120 million odd dollars on it,’’ he said. “But it’s like looking at (Madison Square Garden) and saying ‘Would you spend $1 billion renovating it without the Knicks and the Rangers?’ The answer is no.’’