SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has inked an agreement with a private developer to renovate KeyArena so the venue could be ready for an NBA or NHL team.
Durkan said at a news conference Wednesday that the deal with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group is the best path right now for Seattle to get an NHL team and bring back the SuperSonics.
"I think we are here. I think we have the path," she said.
OVG CEO Tim Leiweke says his group will work diligently to get Seattle a team to join the WNBA's Seattle Storm at KeyArena.
"Ten years ago you had your heart ripped out. We’re gonna get you a team," he said.
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Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed Wednesday, OVG would privately finance a $600 million remodel of the aging arena. The deal includes $20 million in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit organizations and another $40 million for traffic improvements in the area.
Questions have swirled about landing an NHL or NBA franchise.
This is the first serious talk from OVG or the city about what moves the leagues may make. Sources say a hockey deal could be imminent, even as soon as this month. Leiweke was cagey and didn't want to upstage league officials.
“That`s not our right nor is it our right to create unrealistic expectations. So what we have been is been brutally honest with everyone,” he said.
But the NBA has said it's not ready to expand and relocation isn't even remotely in the discussion.
The NHL needs one more team to balance out its divisions. OVG says its big-pocketed investors are ready to sign checks as soon as possible for a franchise fee that could run into the $600 million range.
They know pressure is on to take the tab off the shoulders of taxpayers.
But the real pressure is making sure the key unlocks the NHL and eventually basketball.
“So, hold us accountable,” Leiweke said. “If we don`t have a franchise a year from now, they should take me and put me on top of that arena and while they start tearing that arena down they should let me dive into the middle of the rubble because I haven`t done my job.”
Durkan says the deal protects Seattle taxpayers and is a good one for the city. She added that it doesn't block the path for others possible arena projects.