Seattle City Council Approves Oak View Group's $600M Plan To Renovate KeyArena
The Seattle City Council yesterday "approved a deal" for a $600M renovation of KeyArena that "could soon attract an NHL team and possibly an NBA franchise down the road," according to a front-page piece by Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The council "voted 7-1 to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city" and Oak View Group. They "hope to complete the renovation" by October '20, in time to "launch an NHL team" for the '20-21 season. It was in "stark contrast to a prior arena vote" in May '16, in which the council "voted 5-4 to reject a plan for a new arena in Sodo pitched by entrepreneur Chris Hansen." Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan "must sign off on the new arena plan," but she is "not expected to object." The OVG proposal does "not require it to first acquire teams before the KeyArena renovation begins." OVG "also has pledged" $40M toward a "city transportation fund to mitigate traffic and parking problems around the arena," plus an additional $20M to local charities. An environmental-impact study of the KeyArena plan is "underway, and the city hopes to complete it by late next year so construction can begin" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/5).
VICTORY LAP: In Seattle, Stephen Cohen noted OVG CEO Tim Leiweke "was fist-pumping and practically skipping as he left City Hall following the vote." The group headed by Hansen "released a statement, saying they respect the council's decision, but would continue their efforts to build an arena in Sodo, south of Safeco and CenturyLink Fields." OVG "won the right to renovate KeyArena in June" after then-Mayor Ed Murray issued an RFP in January (SEATTLEPI.com, 12/4). Also in Seattle, Matt Calkins writes a cursory glance would "suggest this was just another city-council meeting." The reality is -- from a Seattle sports standpoint -- it "might have been the biggest day of the year." Arena fatigue has "become very real, as political twists and contentious debate has stripped people of their enthusiasm." Calkins: "But for those who did make it to City Hall on Monday? Almost universal joy." OVG Dir of Special Projects Lance Lopes "pumped his fist when the vote became official," and the crowd "burst into applause -- and Leiweke’s face was visibly victorious" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/5).
TIME TO DROP THE PUCK? NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the NHL is "not in an expansion process" as recently as last month. However, ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski noted he has "supported the arena renovation and has acknowledged" that investment bank TPG Capital Partner David Bonderman, part of the OVG effort, has "expressed interest in owning an NHL franchise." The NHL has "acknowledged that Seattle is a desirable market for pro hockey." In addition to "creating a natural geographic rivalry" with the Canucks, if Seattle were "awarded an expansion team, it would balance the league's Eastern and Western conferences with 16 teams apiece" (ESPN.com, 12/4). The AP noted Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer are two people who OVG has "lined up" as possible lead owners for an NHL team (AP, 12/4). THE ATHLETIC's Katie Strang noted the NHL has "promised nothing to Seattle." However, this is "considered the first significant step in making a strong case for an expansion franchise" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/4).