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KeyArena Renovation MOU Approved

Seattle Arena Oak View Group

The planned KeyArena renovation is moving forward, as the Seattle City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the project on Monday. 

Seattle officials have been weighing a plan from Oak View Group that calls for a privately-financed $600 million renovation to KeyArena. With the work, the venue would be overhauled to modern NBA and NHL standards. A city council committee had approved the MOU with Oak View Group last month, setting up Monday’s vote.

Leading up to the vote, it was believed that the measure stood a good chance of gaining approval, and the council ultimately gave it the nod by a 7-1 margin. While mayor Jenny Durkan still has to sign the legislation, among the other steps that need to be completed, the vote moves the process forward. With the renovation plan in place, the effort to bring a Seattle NHL franchise to KeyArena could accelerate. More from King5:

OVG has claimed it can begin construction next year and open the building by October of 2020. Final transaction documents and a traffic plan are still elements which need to be resolved before the project can begin in earnest.

There is widespread belief inside Seattle City Hall that Oak View will now make a serious pitch to the NHL to be an anchor tenant in the new building. UW grad and billionaire David Bonderman has met with multiple council members. Bonderman is an investor in the project and a minority owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. OVG has publicly identified him as the potential lead investor in an NHL franchise. The NHL Board of Governors is meeting later this week. Jeremy Jacobs, of the Boston Bruins, is the head of the BOG and also an identified partner of OVG.

New Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to formally sign the legislation on Wednesday.

Oak View Group’s pitch to renovate KeyArena has not been the only plan gaining attention in Seattle, as developer Chris Hansen has proposed the construction of a new privately-financed arena in the city’s SoDo neighborhood. Hansen, who has been seeking a second city council vote on the conditional vacation of a one-block section of Occidential Avenue South for the arena’s construction, issued a statement after Monday’s vote. In that statement, Hansen argued that having a second arena option in place could put the city in a better position to land an NBA franchise. More from The Seattle Times:

“Having two viable arena options puts Seattle in the best position to attract an NBA team,” the statement said. “If some future NBA ownership group is unable to reach a competitive deal at Seattle Center, having an alternative is vital for the City and Sonics fans. We ask the City Council to consider our revised application.”

The OVG proposal does not require it to first acquire teams before the KeyArena renovation begins. [Tim] Leiweke’s company also has pledged $40 million toward a city transportation fund to mitigate traffic and parking problems around the arena, plus an additional $20 million 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. The NHL is expected to make a franchise announcement by July regarding the addition of either an expansion or a relocated team to this market.

KeyArena is currently home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, as well as games for college basketball’s Seattle Redhawks. It was also the last home in the city for the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City following the 2007-08 NBA season.

Rendering courtesy OakView Group. 

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