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Entertainment titan: Seattle arena could be top 5 concert destination worldwide

Oak View Group co-founder and entertainment titan Irving Azoff said concerts will be the ‘anchor tenant’ of the new arena at Seattle Center.

SEATTLE — As the raindrops rolled down a downtown Seattle window, Irving Azoff strolled into the Four Seasons Hotel with a little bit of sunshine.

"I brought you good weather," Azoff joked.

Fit and spry at the age of 72, Azoff spent decades at the highest levels of the music industry. He managed the iconic rock band the Eagles for four decades and remembers playing the Moore or the Paramount.

"I can't tell you how often I was up here with the Eagles," Azoff recalled.

Billboard once labeled Azoff as the most powerful person in the music industry. He is the former head of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. He also went into business with the Madison Square Garden Company. That was all before Azoff helped co-found the Oak View Group (OVG) with Tim Leiweke.

Azoff chose to take a less vocal approach to run the OVG. Leiweke helped lead the negotiations with the city of Seattle to build the new arena at Seattle Center. But Azoff hung in the shadows, helping direct how the new arena project would work for concerts.

Also see | How the new arena at Seattle Center will sound very, very different

"David Bonderman, the majority owner of the hockey team, and Tod Leiweke, and Tim, they've outdone themselves. They've also outdone the budget," Azoff laughed about the quickly approaching $1 billion price tag for the new arena.

Azoff noted that the cost is due in part to the engineering feat of maintaining the roof, in addition to the details making the new facility an acoustic achievement. The new sound panels that will hang from the roof will help insulate against reverb, which made the old KeyArena sound like an echo chamber.

"If you've been to The Forum in LA, it's pretty much recognized as the best sound anywhere, and we are really concerned about sound," Azoff said.

Credit: KING 5
Irving Azoff

Azoff believes, based on the inherent culture in Seattle, the building profile and the location, that the new arena at Seattle Center will be a concert destination.

“I think New York, Toronto, LA, and [Seattle]. I really think we've got a chance to be the fourth biggest market [in North America]. Add London in, so maybe top five in the world,” Azoff said. “I really think the demand is here."

Azoff said the current plan calls for 70-80 concerts a year at the new arena. That is on top of the already planned slate of NHL and WNBA games. Concerts are also extremely lucrative, as the Wall Street Journal was first to report, with profits from a concert doubling any typical NBA or NHL game.

Also see | Women leading the way in construction of Seattle's new arena

"Streaming of music has created interest across multi-generations. A year ago, no one knew who Billie Eilish is, and if she opened this building here, we'd probably sell out three or four nights," Azoff said. "It's never monetized like this."

But would those concert profits prohibit another tenant like a future NBA team? Azoff says no.

"There is plenty of room. Many buildings across America have room for both teams and music. Each team plays 41 nights a year plus playoffs. That's 90 days a year out of 365. We still got 270 nights to figure out 70-80 great shows,” Azoff explained.

After meeting with developers and his board of directors this week, Azoff said the project itself appears to be on schedule.

Truckloads of dirt continue to be pulled out of the Seattle Center with the construction of the bowl scheduled to begin next year.

When asked who will play at the new arena first, Azoff said, "If you can tell me the exact opening date, we can go book it." Azoff added, "You can't come to Seattle without going out to my friends from Pearl Jam and Kelly Curtis. It's their's if they want it."

Also see | Seattle's KeyArena played pivotal role in success of Oak View Group