Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke has a theory on why the proposal to renovate KeyArena hasn’t been as popular with some members of the general public as Chris Hansen’s proposal to build a new arena in SoDo.
“There is no NBA team,” Leiweke said on “Brock and Salk” Thursday morning, the day after Seattle Mayor Ed Murray chose OVG to head up the rebuild of KeyArena. “The majority of people who shoot at KeyArena and our vision are shooting at me for one reason, because I’m telling them something they don’t want to hear. So let me repeat this one last time: There is no expansion coming in the NBA.”
At least not any time soon.
“When they’re ready, they will come. But they are not talking about expansion today and in fact there are some owners that would like to go backwards and get down to 28 teams,” Leiweke said of the NBA, which hasn’t had a team in Seattle since the Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008. “They’d like to consolidate. They’re making an enormous amount of money on their TV package. They don’t want to split it and they’d like to split it with less if they could. That’s the reality. Do I think that we get the NBA here one day? Yes, but I think it’s a 10-year process. Let’s be realistic.”
That doesn’t mean OVG is heading into this venture without a plan to have an anchor tenant from one of the top four sports leagues in North America, though. The group announced Wednesday that Boston Celtics minority owner David Bonderman and Hollywood movie and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer have partnered up to make a run at acquiring an NHL franchise, which Leiweke said is a much more realistic goal in the short-term.
“It’s gonna be the NHL that comes first,” he said, adding that the group hasn’t given up on the NBA and has strong ties within that community that will come in handy down the road.
Leiweke indicated that Hansen’s effort to bring the NBA back did itself no favors with a failed attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle in 2013, but he also offered Hansen an opportunity to join OVG to pursue what he sees as a mutual goal for both parties.
“I’m certainly not gonna go out and try to steal franchises in the middle of the night without commissioners’ approval. That doesn’t do Seattle any good,” Leiweke said. “… I admire Chris. I admire Wally [former Sonics player and president Wally Walker, one of Hansen’s partners]. I admire their entrepreneurial spirit. I admire seven years worth of hard work here. Chris has said … he’s interested in bringing the NBA back to Seattle. Great. Come join us, because we have an NBA owner that’s part of our group here, and by the way, we are extremely well-regarded within the NBA community. Seventeen of the NBA owners are my partner on our arena alliance that we own at OVG. We get along extremely well with the NBA owners.
“… Please join us, Chris, and we will allow you to get the goal that you said drove you from Day 1. Let’s bring the NBA back here. But it’s gonna be Seattle Arena, in all due respect.”
Leiweke also addressed Hansen reportedly saying at an event Wednesday that representatives from OVG have not been in contact with him throughout the process of proposing to renovate KeyArena, going so far as to show Brock Huard and Mike Salk an email conversation on his phone with a contact under Hansen’s name that dated back to last October – an exchange you can see in the video above starting at the 13:53 mark.
“I will never say a bad word about Chris,” Leiweke said. “I understand they accuse us of misrepresenting the facts. I’m not gonna get into the dirt. We’re gonna stay focused on good things in Seattle, and at the end of the day we don’t speak with a forked tongue and we’re gonna do this the right way and we’re gonna do this with honor, integrity, and we make sure that everyone is transparent on the deals that we’re making with this city.”