According to King5, a local NBC affiliate, “Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Oak View Group (OVG) have a formal agreement to build a $600 million privately financed arena at Seattle Center, with tens of millions more in transportation mitigation.” The deal calls for construction to begin next year and finish by 2020.
OVG, led by Tim Leiweke, former President and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (which owns stakes in multiple sports franchises and arenas) has committed community funds (half of which will go towards YouthCare and addressing youth homelessness) that could push the total cost of the project well over two-thirds of a billion dollars in private financing alone. This comes at a time where private financing of arenas is becoming increasingly rare as franchise owners heavily lean on tax credits and public funds to fund their projects. With “no city debt” being issued for redeveloping the site and OVG assuming all cost overruns from the project this appears to be an even bigger win for the city of Seattle.
Still, there have been questions raised about whether OVG, as a third-party vendor, could attract NBA and NHL teams and make it financially viable for the franchise owners. Seattle City Budget Director Ben Noble rebutted these concerns, stating that his office had done its due diligence and “at this stage, we are satisfied” that it will not be a problem.
NBA Hoop Dreams:
Beyond the local impact for the city of Seattle, news of the stadium financing has received national interest, stoking rumors of a potential NBA expansion franchise. The city of Seattle has been teamless since 2008 when the Seattle Supersonics were moved down to Oklahoma City. The last time the NBA had a league expansion, adding teams, was in 2004.
In response to fervid questioning, NBA Spokesman Mike Bass attempted to throw ice water on the fire, saying “the NBA is not involved in the ongoing Seattle arena process, and we have no plans to expand at this time.” Despite this initial reaction from the NBA, it appears the chances are still quite high that an NBA expansion will occur soon and that now, with a new arena lined up, Seattle remains a major favorite to receive a team.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver himself has called an NBA expansion “inevitable,” adding that “it’s just a question of when the right time is to seriously start thinking about [it].”
In an interview with Blazers guard and aspiring journalist C.J. McCollum for Players’ Tribune, Silver answered questions about a potential league expansion rather candidly. The NBA Commissioner said that he did not want to “put a precise timeline on it, but it’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises,” later adding that Seattle, former home of the SuperSonics will “no doubt be on a short list of cities” the league will look at when considering expansion.
Silver, who has been pushing transparency in the league recently, went on to explain his thought process behind it, “think about the state we’re in the league right now. Amazing to me, coming off these Finals, we have some fans saying ‘there’s only one good team in the league.’ And I’m thinking, if people really believe that, even though we have 450 of the best players in the world and 450 players can only form one really good team, it probably doesn’t make sense to expand in terms of dilution of talent. I don’t really believe that, and I think these things correct themselves.”
Beyond Seattle, if Silver’s reasoning opens the door to a potentially larger expansion. Multiple sports media outlets have run with the idea of a larger expansion, highlighting potential target cities that range from Seattle and Las Vegas to Mexico City, Louisville, and Hampton Roads.
Time will only tell the site of the next NBA franchises but one thing seems certain, it will be “inevitable.”
• Seattle has thrown its support behind plans to build a $600 million privately financed arena at Seattle Center that will finish in 2020. The arena has been built with enticing high level sports franchises to Seattle in mind.
• With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling it “inevitable” and a Seattle stadium plans in the works, renewed public interest has been stoked in a potential NBA league expansion with potential target cities that range from Seattle and Las Vegas to Mexico City, Louisville, and Hampton Roads.
• What cities will be successful in their bids for a new NBA expansion franchise? What will the impact on these cities be? As we saw with Cleveland, the impact on some cities can be quite substantial.
• What will these cities have to give up to attain a franchise? Like Seattle will the stadiums and infrastructure be privately funded or will they be forced to cough up precious public tax dollars to entice the NBA?
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