If all goes as planned, a revamped KeyArena in Seattle will be operational by 2020. Whether it will be ready to host an NHL team by then or in the years to follow is yet to be determined.
Oak View Group is in charge of the renovations, but that company will not be the sole owners of an NHL franchise should that come to fruition. The company’s CEO, Tim Leiweke, announced earlier in the summer that film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer plus financier David Bonderman were partnering with Oak View Group with the primary task of acquiring an NHL franchise.
“We will own a small piece of an NHL team because I’m not capable of writing whatever cheque the [NHL] owners may or may not want,” Leiweke told Prime Time Sports Tuesday. “So what we are doing is my company is putting in half the money on the arena but my company can’t own a hockey team. We had to go find an owner, or in this case two, that were prepared to write that cheque and in order to make sure that we were aligned we gave them half of the interest in the arena.”
Leiweke, the former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president, has a specific vision for what the refurbished venue will look like.
“What we’re doing is we’re keeping the outside of the arena as is because this is 1962 and the World’s Fair and so there’s a great deal of history and tradition but we’re going down and completely gutting the bowl and completely gutting the concourses and doubling the size of the arena to 660,000 square feet,” Leiweke explained. “Imagine, essentially, it will look an awful lot like the Air Canada Centre and like the Air Canada Centre we’ll have an atrium that essentially gets people down—so you’ll enter on the top level and then go down to the rest of the building and the bowl.”
Oak View Group recently released a video and artist renderings of what NHL hockey in Seattle might look like.
“Very tight, 17,500 seats but economically designed in a way to be top third of the league in revenue, suits premium, and a lower bowl that will be one of the larger lower bowls in the league,” Leiweke continued. “The environment will be amazing because it will be tight. There’s not a lot of space in this bowl. We want it to be where the fans are right up on the ice or the basketball court.
“We’ve spent $600 million on a building that ultimately will be one of the better buildings and it’s designed in large part to be similar to the [Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild] and it’ll look and feel a little bit like Air Canada Centre but just new.”
While it seems Leiweke and his partners are a good bet to eventually get an NHL franchise, bringing an NBA team back to the city is a different story—even though Leiweke describes NBA commissioner Adam Silver as “one of my best friends.”
With the NBA and its franchises thriving financially with a massive TV deal in place, the league is not desperate to expand or relocate any of its 30 teams.
Leiweke added: “We will be ready in Seattle if and when there’s a day and time that Adam Silver comes knocking on our door.”