A healthy dose of skepticism regarding the cost of this process is a good thing, but here’s why the city should go with Tim Leiweke’s group.
We’re one day from another city-council vote — one day from a decision that could inch our city closer to a new state-of-the-art arena.
On the surface, this looks like a potential watershed moment. If the majority of the nine-member council approves the Memorandum of Understanding between Oak View Group and the City of Seattle over the redevelopment of KeyArena, it would mark the most concrete step toward luring the NHL and NBA to the Emerald City since the Sonics departed nine years ago.
Exciting stuff, right? Well, not to everyone. Concerns over whether a KeyArena renovation is the best option remain. The primary question: Can Seattle trust Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke to act in the best interest of local sports fans?
Photos | OVG renderings of KeyArena renovation
The subjective answer: Yes, I think it can.
“Think” is the operative word here, because it’s impossible to know. When he was with AEG, Leiweke promised Kansas City, Mo., a pro team when pitching the Sprint Center, and 10 years after construction, the Chiefs and Royals remain the town’s only major sports franchises. He also boasted that AEG’s Farmers Field project would lure the NFL back to Los Angeles a few years back, only to watch that stadium go unbuilt.
So why have faith in this guy? Why should one of the most passionate fan bases in the country trust that Leiweke can deliver? Well, for starters …
He has the connections.
Leiweke was the CEO of AEG during the construction of Staples Center in Los Angeles, which housed the Lakers, Clippers and Kings. He later became CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, whose properties include the NHL’s Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Raptors and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.
He has served on the NBA and NHL board of governors. He considered former NBA commissioner David Stern to be his mentor. He has the utmost respect from Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss. Leiweke is kind of like the sports world’s Cosmo Kramer. Somehow, he knows everybody.
Last month, my colleague Geoff Baker asked NBA commissioner Adam Silver about Leiweke’s ability to come through on a major project. He didn’t vacillate.
“He’s always delivered in all of my business dealings with him,” Silver said.
And let’s be honest here …
Delivering is in Leiweke’s best interest.