[Love sports and technology? Sign up for our sports tech newsletter to receive this rundown from GeekWire’s Taylor Soper via email every week.]
TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: The big sports news in Seattle this week was all about Key Arena and the potential arrival of professional hockey.
The Seattle City Council and new Mayor Jenny Durkan approved a new $660 million deal to renovate Key Arena, which served home to the Seattle Supersonics before the NBA franchise left to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Various reports this week noted that the process for NHL expansion to Seattle has already started, allowing for a season-ticket drive to gauge interest.
Leading the Key Arena development is Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based organization headed up by Tim Leiweke, a sports industry veteran who has experience building new arenas across the globe.
Leiweke spoke at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit this summer in Seattle and talked about his vision for the redeveloped Key Arena, in particular for how technology will play a role. He addressed various topics ranging from transportation; security, esports; Amazon; and Seattle’s technology industry boom.
I’m especially interested to see how OVG and Leiweke work with Amazon, particularly with Key Arena as a music concert destination. Back in March, I sat down with Leiweke and he raved about Amazon’s new cashier-less grocery shopping concept, noting how it could be implemented in Key Arena.
And here’s this from longtime Seattle sports columnist Art Thiel this week, who noted that Leiweke “has been quite public in his ardor for Amazon”:
Amazon abruptly has become a global leader in consumer entertainment. Leiweke aspires to have OVG supplant his hated former boss, Philip Anschutz of Anschutz Entertainment Group, as one of the world’s largest entertainment presenters. So it becomes easier to understand why Leiweke is willing, in a building he will not own, to gamble hundreds of millions of dollars, including covering all cost overruns on the Key renovation, to create a concerts-first venue: It’s a neighbor to the world headquarters of the retail/entertainment colossus.
Along with his equity partner in the Key remodel, concert promoter Live Nation, Leiweke’s OVG needs to win Seattle, the next big marketplace opportunity, to win the bigger turf war with rival AEG.
This marks the latest chapter in a decade-long saga that started after the Sonics departed to Oklahoma City nearly a decade ago. Numerous high-powered groups and individuals have been involved in the process of building a potential new stadium in Seattle, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was part of a ownership group that nearly brought the NBA back to Seattle in 2013.
Highlights from the week in sports tech
- Microsoft is building a cricket field on its redeveloped campus in Redmond, Wash.
- The Seattle Sounders are in Toronto for an MLS Cup rematch at 1 p.m. PT Saturday on ESPN. I caught up with former Sounders star Roger Levesque, who predicts a 2-0 win for Seattle. EA Sports’ FIFA simulation disagrees.
- Shohei Ohtani, known as the Babe Ruth of Japan, made his highly-anticipated choice on Friday: He’s joining the Los Angeles Angels. FiveThirtyEight takes a data-driven look at his value, which has “no precedent.”
- Lots of attention on the New Jersey sports betting case this week — it’s looking like sports gambling could be legalized in multiple states.
- The Monday Night Football game this week was brutal from an injury perspective. Steelers safety Mike Mitchell went on a 4-minute rant worth watching. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin voiced his displeasure on Twitter.
- 2018 is shaping up to be quite the year for sports streaming rights. A new report predicts that Amazon will be a live sports powerhouse as soon as next year. Sports Business Journal reported this week that Facebook is looking for a top-level executive to negotiate sports rights. That person would have a budget of “a few billion dollars.”
- Perhaps sports commentary is in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s future. The renowned astrophysicist weighed in on Russell Wilson’s amazing lateral play against Philadelphia last week, calling the quarterback’s pitch “a legit ‘Galilean Transformation.'”
- Popular golf app 18Birdies just added more big-name investors: NBA legend/head coach Jason Kidd, and Dolby Labs Chairman Peter Gotcher. Longtime PGA Tour pro Ernie Els invested in the company back in August.
- Hulu has partnered with NBA teams to let fans watching on the company’s streaming platform show up on the big screen at games.
- LeBron’s “U bum” tweet was the most re-tweeted athlete tweet of 2017.
What to watch this weekend: As noted above, the MLS Cup is at 1 p.m. on ESPN this Saturday … Army at Navy at noon Saturday is the only college football action … Seahawks at Jaguars or Eagles at Rams, both at 1:25 p.m.on FOX, are the best NFL matchups.
Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper