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AZOFF, LEIWEKE GET KEY TO CITY OF SEATTLE

Irving Azoff has won the rights to do an extreme makeover on another venerable arena, this time in concert with Tim Leiweke, his partner in the Oak View Group. They were chosen over AEG, Leiweke’s former employer, by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, to remodel the KeyArena, erstwhile home of the NBA’s SuperSonics, where such legends as Downtown Freddie Brown, Jack Sikma, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and a young Kevin Durant once delighted local hoops fans. Chris Daniels of NBC affiliate KING5 broke the story.

Don’t expect Oklahoma City to give back the team, renamed the Thunder, when the franchise was moved after the 2008-09 season. The mayor wants the NBA to return, but the first league he hopes to attract is the NHL via an expansion franchise, which would be an anchor tenant in the facility, a source close to the project told Daniels.

"We're committed to making sure that the passion we have for this city will be the passion that we give you every day to not only build a world-class arena for all of our generations but to bring the NBA and the NHL back to Seattle—NBA back, NHL new," Leiweke said Wednesday. As a multi-use venue, KeyArena will also host concerts, in which Swirv has a vested interest.

When the mayor made the announcement, Azoff and Leiweke were by his side, beaming like alpha dogs. Also present at the press conference were Vancouver Canucks Chairman Francesco Aquilini, Florida Panthers Chairman Peter Luukko (a partner in OVG), along with reps from the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders FC. Sounders owner Adrian Hanuaer worked with Leiweke at AEG and helped run the MLS’ L.A. and Toronto franchises.

"I chose this proposal because I believe it is a proposal that will bring the Sonics back to Seattle eventually, a track and NHL team, and give us the best entertainment that this world provides, and bring it right here to Seattle," Murray said. “Oak View Group really is building an entire new arena under the current roof.”

City Documents provide details on the decision, which was reached on 6/21:

“Design is a strength of the OVG proposal—it meets NHL/NBA standards, provides a flexible approach to adjust to future changes and maintains existing roofline completely, which puts forward a true historic preservation design option for the Arena that would likely meet federal standards. While OVG maintains the historic roof, they completely gut and remodel the interior, with a full rebuild of the lower and upper bowl—offering what seems to be a new arena under the historic roof. The design also offers some surety that the aesthetic and scale of the new Arena will integrate well into the Seattle Center campus and Uptown neighborhood.

“From a financial standpoint, OVG’s principals’ experience and financial support from the Madison Square Garden Company give OVG and its partners an excellent chance to secure the construction and long-term debt necessary to construct and operate the arena. A major strength of OVG’s construction financing proposal is that it does not require an upfront infusion of City dollars (i.e. no bonds issued or new taxes proposed).”

Game on for Swirv and Timmy.

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