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Tim Leiweke suggested Thursday that the NBA and NHL are well aware of his efforts to renovate or rebuild KeyArena, and are supportive.
"I completely understand how they think. I completely understand their view and their opinion of Seattle. I completely understand how they want us to proceed, and I completely understand their feelings as to what this building should be and the timeline that we need to hit in order for them to look at a potential for Seattle to join one or the other, or both," said the sports business veteran. "We are following the lead, the direction and the input of Commissioner Bettman and Commissioner Silver."
Leiweke, the head of the Oak View Group, is the former head of AEG and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. He talked at length in Seattle on Thursday about the potential for the project and how it would be financed.
Leiweke and Lance Lopes -- who has worked for the Seahawks and UW, and is leading the local planning -- sat and answered questions for a half hour about their idea and how it fits with a future NBA or NHL franchise.
"What we don't want to do is a Band-Aid," acknowledged Leiweke.
He said his designers and architects had visited KeyArena six to seven times to develop potential plans. He believes it can be done without "any subsidies or risk to taxpayers."
The brother of former Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke also acknowledged the transportation challenges in the neighborhood, as detailed in new data released this week, but said his group has already been working to address the issue.
"Frankly, a lot of it is based on misperceptions," said Lopes. "A great example: Mercer mess. If you go to Mercer at six o'clock at night and look at what the westbound traffic looks like, it actually flows quite well. Eastbound is difficult; we're actually not going eastbound, we're having people coming into that area."
Lopes, who attended a Mercer stakeholder meeting on Wednesday, added, "We also think there is a way forward around traffic and parking in this neighborhood. We're going to wait to reveal those opportunities with our RFP. I would simply say up until now there had really never been a cohesive plan around transportation and KeyArena, certainly to the level we're going to undertake if we move forward on this building. We're pleased on what we found."
The City of Seattle has asked for groups to submit their proposals by April 12, including financing, designs and transportation plans.
Leiweke brushed aside suggestions that he wouldn't be able to work with potential NBA or NHL tenants if he's the building operator, saying OVG has had conversations with potential NHL franchise owners.
"We are prepared and have had conversations with people that are interested in the potential and opportunity of bringing an (NHL) team here. We've been asked by those people to join them in the ownership so that the building and team owner are 100 percent aligned," he said.
"We're prepared to be equal partners with anyone that owns a team. They can share the arena with us. We will be 50/50 partners."
In a sense, it was Leiweke's way of responding to SoDo investor Chris Hansen's comments last month that KeyArena developers may only be interested in the concert business.
"I admire Chris and his entrepreneurial spirit, and I think it's fantastic that a native son has fought so long, so hard, spent the money and taken the risk," said Leiweke. "But this is not about us versus him."
However, when asked about whether the city should allow the one-block vacation of Occidental and a KeyArena redevelopment, he was more direct.
"I've always told Chris, 'the best thing that's going to happen for you is once and for all going to determine whether the Seattle Center Arena can work.' If it does work, my guess would be it is a waste of resources. It is a waste and misuse of urban planning and certainly makes no economic sense if it's privatized for two arenas to be built. But that's my own opinion. But I will follow the lead of the mayor and the council."
Leiweke reiterated that, despite city claims a redevelopment project could take five years, a project could be completed quicker.
"Our guess from the day a decision is made, and a deal is signed and approved by the city; you're probably three years more in the process. That will not cost us an opportunity."
He said that opportunity does not involve the NHL's Arizona Coyotes.
"(Bettman) is fully dedicated to finding a solution in Phoenix. We cannot, and we will not ultimately go prey on trying to move franchises. That was a major mistake, and we will not make that mistake," Leiweke said in an apparent reference to Hansen's 2013 pursuit of the Sacramento Kings.
The Seattle City Council announced this week it will host a series of hearings on the arena issue beginning March 27.
"We're gonna come to the end of this, and by the end of this, the community, everyone will get behind one project," said Leiweke.
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