Though two separate arena plans are unfolding in Seattle, executive Tim Leiweke is downplaying the notion that they are in direct competition.
Leiweke is the CEO of the Oak View Group, a firm that is interested in pursuing a proposed renovation to Key Arena. Seattle is not expected to issue a request for proposal (RFP) on the Key Arena project until January, but Oak View recently signaled its desire to carry out the plan through a series of moves, including the hiring of Lance Lopes, a well-known executive in Seattle’s sports scene.
All the while, developer Chris Hansen continues to pursue a new arena in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. His inititative hit a roadblock in May, when the city council rejected a plan that included vacating Occidential Avenue South, but Hansen is renewing his pursuit. Private funding for his arena is now on the table, and Hansen has a prominent backer in Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Having separate plans on the table certainly adds to the intrigue in Seattle, but Leiweke is not promoting the situation as a competition. Instead, he is highlighting the shared goal of the two initiatives. More from 710 ESPN:
This is not a competition, though, according to Leiweke. He said that his group jumped into this because “we’re here eight and 10 years later still talking about trying to get a franchise.”
“If a franchise came, we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “We are fans of Chris. We are friends with Chris. I admire Chris and (SoDo partner Wally Walker). This is not a competition and we’ve made it very clear. We have no intention, our purpose here is not to own the team. Our purpose here is to help bring a team here. One of my partners is Madison Square Garden. They already own an NBA team and they already own an NHL team, so we are prohibited from owning a team. We want to be the catalyst so this might be the best day Chris ever had because we might be able to solve the facility issue without him spending $700 million or $800 million. And so we don’t want to stand in Chris’ way and, in fact, we want to encourage Chris, and if you look at the process in the last two months, the reality is the deal is only going to get better for the taxpayers and only going to get better for Seattle because that’s what competition will do. This is a friendly competition and our goal is actually Chris’ goal. And Chris, Wally, myself and Lance, we agree on one thing: We’d like to see the return of the NBA or the NHL.”
Ultimately securing a franchise in either league is the biggest priority, regardless of which proposal eventually emerges in the lead. There has been a desire to see the NBA return to Seattle since the Seattle SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season, but the city has been clear in its intention to pursue the NHL as well.
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