Potential NHL investor teaming with AEG in KeyArena bid

KeyArena at Seattle Center.
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Arena conglomerate AEG is teaming up with a real estate developer who wants to bring professional hockey back to Seattle in a bid to renovate KeyArena, a half-century-old facility that was the last home of the NBA SuperSonics.

Representatives from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties said they are "real partners and committed" to the bid, which will be formally filed Wednesday at Seattle City Hall.

"This one requires something special, and we're excited to have Hudson Pacific as a partner side by side with us, for the renovation of KeyArena," AEG Facilities President Bob Newman said, who announced the new group will be called "Seattle Partners" when its formal bid is submitted.

"We saw this as a really unique opportunity for us," Alex Vouvalides of the Los Angeles-based Hudson Pacific Properties said.

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The publicly traded Hudson Pacific has a large portfolio in Seattle, involving hundreds of thousands of square feet spread over buildings in Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, Denny Triangle, and Lynnwood. The company's website boasts a 17 million-square-foot portfolio largely comprised of office space in California.

Hudson Pacific is run by Victor Coleman, who has not hidden his desire to bring an NHL team to Seattle. He also once had a "non-binding agreement" with Chris Hansen to partner on the proposed SODO arena.

Vouvalides and AEG touted their powerful combination.

"It's a joint venture, and it's safe to say we're going to be committed in a big way. It's a true partnership, and we're going to have significant stakes going forward," Vouvalides added.

Neither Vouvalides or Newman would discuss the financial terms.

However, Vouvalides downplayed any talk of the NHL, except to say, "We hope the project that we develop with AEG is going to be attractive to both an NHL and NBA teams, and we think we're going to deliver a class A project that will definitely be exciting to potential team owners."

AEG is prohibited from owning another NHL franchise, as it already owns and operates five hockey clubs, including the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, as part of its extensive business portfolio.

The partnership is a twist for anyone who has followed the long-running arena saga in Seattle.

Coleman has made multiple trips to Seattle for business and personal purposes. His public interest in owning an NHL team first came to light back in 2014. The Vancouver, B.C. native was at a meeting that was between Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly at Seattle City Hall.  The group also met at that time with King County Executive Dow Constantine. 

It became clear soon after that Coleman and Hansen could not work out final details, and Coleman never made a bid for an NHL expansion franchise when the league opened it up for offers in 2015. He said in 2015 he was looking for an "alternative development partner."

Coleman said during that period that he grew up at 41st and Granville in Vancouver and fell in love with hockey and the expansion Vancouver Canucks. He said a team in Seattle would have "built-in synergies" with Vancouver's franchise.

As far as the bid itself, Newman and Vouvalides acknowledged they are interested in preserving the KeyArena roof. 

"Our view and design on the project is meant to honor the rich tradition of what's currently there," Vouvalides said. 

"We're embracing the history, design," Newman added. 

They indicated more details on the design would be available Wednesday.

The partners also said their bid would address transportation concerns. 

"There is a path to making it a great traffic scenario," Newman said. "You're going to see a major commitment from the partnership, major financial commitment towards the traffic."

AEG is expected to have competition from the Oak View Group, led by former AEG head Tim Leiweke, who has previously talked about ideas for a KeyArena renovation.

Chris Hansen's SODO Arena group is still pursuing a street vacation petition for one-block of Occidental Avenue South, one of the last major hurdles before construction could begin. On Thursday, that petition cleared one hurdle

However, the Seattle City Council is not expected to vote on any petition until clearing up the KeyArena renovation bids, which may not happen until summer. Bids will be reviewed by a select citizen committee, as well as the council, which meets to discuss the issue on Monday.

Meanwhile, in advance of Wednesday's KeyArena bid deadline, the NBA and NHL said they've had little involvement in the Seattle discussions.   

"The NBA has not engaged in this process in any way," NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said.  

The NHL has been publicly skeptical about a KeyArena renovation. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on Tuesday the league has not signed off on any renovation designs, but "we have heard from both groups."