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KeyArena Demolition to Begin After NHL Franchise Awarded

KeyArena renovation Oak View Group hockey

The KeyArena demolition process for its renovation is to begin after the NHL has awarded Seattle an expansion franchise, according to recent city documents. 

Oak View Group is planning to carry out a privately financed $700 million renovation to KeyArena that will raise the venue to modern NBA and NHL standards. The goal is to eventually land franchises in both leagues, but the NHL is viewed as the more imminent possibility, as billionaire David Bonderman and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are currently leading an effort to bring an NHL expansion franchise to Seattle.

While it has gathered momentum over the last few months, the expansion bid has not received final approval from the NHL. A formal presentation will be given to the NHL’s executive committee on October 2, with a decision on approval possibly coming as early as December. Seattle is calling for Oak View Group to hold off on KeyArena demolition until the expansion franchise is approved, but that might not affect the planned reopening date of the venue if the league decides in December to accept the bid. It has been anticipated that construction will be completed in October 2020, and officials believe that that goal would still be achievable. More from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times:

On Friday, it was revealed at a meeting of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas that the city won’t allow KeyArena demolition to begin until the NHL awards a team. But further city documents show that officials feel delaying the demolition until that expected December team approval still allows the renovation to finish by its October 2020 target.

I’m told by all involved that December has long been eyed as the latest the start of full demolition could be pushed out. There’s good reason for that: Until the Sept. 13 deadline, anybody can appeal a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the $700 million KeyArena renovation and cause it to be delayed.

Leiweke confirmed Friday that the city’s latest plan still “follows the timeline we have envisioned and all fits the goal of 2020.”

Oak View Group is currently pushing to have several agreements ratified by the Seattle City Council later this month, which would be a major step in moving forward with the process.

As noted, final approval of the NHL expansion pitch awaits, so in the interim there are questions surrounding the timing of the club’s launch. It has been expected that the team could begin play as early as the 2020-21 season, though the 2021-22 campaign might end up being its inaugural year. That date is not finalized, however, and more certainty should emerge if/when the expansion bid is approved.

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