From Brian Robinson and John Barr
Seattle’s rapid and inspiring growth over the last decade has placed our city atop many important lists. For example:
- Top 10 Most Livable Big Cities (Business Insider, August 2017)
- The fastest growing big city in the United States (US Census, 2017)
- The city with more construction cranes than any other city (Puget Sound Business Journal, 2017)
Even as we enjoy this unprecedented regional growth and the opportunities it has brought, we still find ourselves with another very dubious distinction: Seattle is the largest city in the United States without a winter professional sports franchise. It is long past time for this to change.
The City of Seattle is very close to formalizing an agreement with the Oak View Group (OVG) that would transform historic Key Arena into a world-class modern sports venue, paving the way for the return of the NBA and the introduction of an NHL team. The City Council will vote on a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) on December 4.
After years of waiting, Seattle sports fans, and countless businesses that will benefit from our new teams, should be ready to celebrate.
Seattle is an ideal location for an NHL franchise. It’s bigger than 15 of the current 31 cities with NHL teams. A Seattle franchise would also add geographical balance. The league’s recent expansion to Las Vegas leaves the NHL with 15 teams in the Western Conference, compared to 16 in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Seattle’s growing economy, and its strong basketball tradition, will ultimately call for a return of the NBA.
However, the commissioners of both the NHL and NBA have made it clear in their public statements that Seattle must build a world-class arena to house any prospective new franchises.
“I have no concern that the building proper won’t meet our requirements,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the Seattle Times in a recent interview, adding that serious discussions can’t begin until an arena gets built. The article goes on to say that Silver wouldn’t bet against Leiweke getting something done. “He’s always delivered in all of my business dealings with him.”
Knowing that time is of the essence, OVG’s construction schedule will result in the new building opening in October of 2020. And OVG’s rebuild would produce a facility capable of attracting the NBA when a franchise becomes available.
Why Seattle Center?
Seattle Center is a cherished historic showcase for our city. A new arena on the campus would fit the broader revitalization that city leaders have envisioned for many years. Along with Seattle Storm basketball, an NHL and NBA team will complement the vibrant music, theater, and performing arts events at Seattle Center, expanding the versatile spectrum of activity that reflects Seattle’s diverse community and lively culture. The OVG project has the support of surrounding communities and local government. After years of conflict with potential arena neighbors it is exciting to see neighborhoods including Uptown, SLU, Queen Anne, and Belltown engaged in a thoughtful process aimed at building the community’s support and expectations into the revitalization of Seattle Center campus.
OVG is a world leader in the arena, sports and entertainment industries. Few people in the world possess the deep relationships across the NHL, the NBA, and the music industry that Tim Leiweke and his team bring to the table. OVG’s point person in Seattle is Lance Lopes who has been in leadership roles with the Seahawks, Sounders and Huskies since 2001. Lopes is a great leader for this effort who knows the Seattle sports landscape as well as anyone.
OVG has demonstrated the ability to deliver a world-class arena that will be successful for decades to come. Perhaps most importantly, OVG has proactively reached out to community members to build collaborative relationships. The OVG team in Seattle has hosted and attended several public events to hear input and concerns of neighborhoods, Seattle Center tenants, labor unions, local businesses, fans, and other stakeholders.
Over the last decade, we have seen that building a world-class arena capable of bringing back the NBA and attracting the NHL is an incredibly difficult and complex task. OVG has the expertise and business savvy required to work with the City’s multiple constituencies and address the specific needs of major sports leagues.
The OVG team is ready to take the first step toward restoring Seattle’s place among the ranks of great American sports towns. Fans of pro basketball and hockey should recognize this great opportunity and look forward to many nights of professional basketball and hockey in the years ahead.
-Brian Robinson and John Barr