Inside Sports Business: Timely assist from NHL helps Oak View Group, Seattle officials in terms of KeyArena perception

Those close to the situation knew the NHL badly needed to throw Seattle and Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group a bone. Some of the public discourse surrounding a KeyArena renovation proposal had gotten out of whack.

Inside sports business

The NHL’s recent announcement it would accept an expansion application for a future Seattle franchise might have surprised those who hadn’t closely followed this city’s arena drama.

But those close to the situation knew the league badly needed to throw the city and Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group a bone. Some of the public discourse surrounding a KeyArena renovation proposal had gotten out of whack, and speculation had affected perceptions of the venue and Leiweke’s plans for it.

Because the city of Kansas City, Mo., had built an arena with Leiweke a decade ago and did not attract teams, some believed KeyArena would suffer the same fate.

But this situation is different:

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• Seattle is a bigger market than Kansas City and is growing faster.

• Kansas City’s Sprint Center was built with mainly public funds. Leiweke’s group is footing the $600 million renovation bill and would take a huge financial hit if teams don’t come.

• Leiweke already had the NHL ownership group of David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer as equity partners, after lacking such a group in K.C.

OVG and Seattle officials let the NHL know they needed help. And the league assured both before the city-council vote ratifying a Memorandum of Understanding that help was coming.

So it wasn’t a coincidence the NHL’s announcement came just one day after Mayor Jenny Durkan had signed off on the council’s 7-1 MOU approval vote. The league’s authorization of a Seattle season-ticket drive — expected to begin in January — might as well have been a full-page newspaper advertisement announcing a team was approved.

The only reason the NHL didn’t outright…

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