The Seattle SuperSonics played their last game at Key Arena in 2008, a few months after Amazon planted its flag just down the road with a 1.7 million-square foot office campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Fast forward a decade, and Amazon’s campus is more than four times its original size, with more to come, and a group of billionaires are preparing to renovate the Seattle Center stadium in pursuit of a professional hockey team. Amazon figures to have a significant impact on the project, both through its 50,000 downtown workers that could serve as a potential built-in fanbase and its technology that could be infused into the arena.
GeekWire sat down with the potential ownership team, Oak View Group, as it prepares to kick off a season ticket drive this morning. The group is aiming to secure an expansion team for the 2020-21 season. Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, said his team has talked with Amazon about the arena renovation project, but declined to give specifics.
“This is the tech city of the future, and that means we have to be a showcase,” Leiweke said. “But at the end of the day, whatever ideas they may be giving us or help they may be giving us and process that they may be involved in that has to be between us and them.”
UPDATE, 11:20 a.m.: More than 25,000 people have put down deposits for the first shot at buying tickets.
That’s how long it took to hit our goal of 10,000 deposits.
We’re now at 25,000 and counting.
Thank you, Seattle.#NHLSeattle
— NHL Seattle (@NHLSeattle_) March 1, 2018
The Las Vegas Golden Knights, the last NHL expansion team, sold 5,000 deposits during the first two days of its 2015 ticket drive and hit its goal of 10,000 deposits in about six weeks.
Last year Leiweke told GeekWire that he met with Amazon about potentially integrating something similar to the checkout-less Amazon Go concept at a renovated Key Arena. But this time around, he didn’t want to discuss it.
The ownership group also includes film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and billionaire businessman and University of Washington alumnus David Bonderman. The group plans a $600 million renovation project that protects Key Arena’s historic roof, while largely rebuilding the interior.
The ownership group is hoping to capture the enthusiasm of the city’s thriving tech workforce. The potential owners wouldn’t go in-depth about what kind of tech they plan for the new arena, but Bonderman noted that the renovation of Key Arena one of the first big arena projects to take place from start to finish during this social media age.
“We want to do our best to make this the most tech savvy arena that’s been built anywhere at any time, what exactly that’s going to look like, we don’t know,” Bonderman said.
Leiweke posited that an up-to-date Key Arena would benefit Amazon as well. He argued that a first-class arena and concert venue would help restore Seattle’s reputation as a music hub and aid Amazon in recruiting and retaining talent.
“My guess is they’ll be very aggressive in trying to help us accomplish being one of the top ten arenas in the world for music because it’s in their best interest, and we in turn are over the moon about being a neighbor to Amazon.”
We also talked with Bruckheimer about his perspective on the NHL and the Seattle arena, and we’ll have more in a follow-up post.