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Seattle Partners withdraws from KeyArena renovation process

(AP file photo)

Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) President Bob Newman sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Sunday officially withdrawing his company’s (Seattle Partners) bid to redesign and renovate KeyArena.

Newman’s group is a joint venture between AEG, the world’s largest owner of sports teams and sports events, and Hudson Pacific properties, a real estate company “focused on acquiring, repositioning, developing, and operating state-of-the-art media and entertainment properties,” according to their website.

RELATED: Seattle mayor’s staff leaning toward Leiweke’s KeyArena proposal

Oak View Group, which has billed its plan as “New Arena at Seattle Center” is now the only remaining group with a bid to the city of Seattle to renovate KeyArena.

Statement from the Oak View Group on Sunday:

As I have said previously: Our project is 100% privately financed and built with 100% private proceeds. With our partners MSG and Live Nation,  we have assembled the best team in the sports and entertainment industry. Our chief objective is this: provide the best financial deal for the city, an exemplary public-private partnership, and build Seattle a showcase venue for professional sports, music, and entertainment.  While we are still engaged in the RFP process, we have no further comment. We look forward to the Mayor’s decision.

—Tim Leiweke, Founder & CEO of Oak View Group

The Seattle Partners plan envisioned the public bonding of three separate revenue sources — A facility fee at the remodeled arena, a future lease payment to the city from the company, and ticket taxes.

The plans to renovate Key Arena have drawn criticism from those who prefer the SoDo arena proposal from hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. Hansen’s proposal calls for a privately funded arena to be built on land he owns south of Safeco Field.

A full copy of the letter is provided below.

Dear Mayor Murray and Seattle City Council:

We are writing to inform you that Seattle Partners must regretfully withdraw our bid to redesign
and renovate KeyArena.

We remain firm in the belief that our proposal best serves the people of Seattle, but, unfortunately, significant factors through the bidding process have eroded our confidence in the ultimate execution of this project, no matter which group is selected. We fear the City is driving
toward an unrealistic financing structure, and we believe the City has failed to conduct a sufficiently thorough, objective and transparent process to properly evaluate the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two proposals and, most significantly, to identify the proposal best positioned to deliver a project consistent with the community’s interests.

The people of Seattle deserve a world-class sports and entertainment venue capable of bringing back NBA and NHL teams. We have engaged earnestly in a process that we had hoped would be relentless in its pursuit of that objective, and we put forward a proposal we believed most certain to deliver a successful completed project that would attract professional basketball and hockey teams.

Notwithstanding our confidence in the merits of our proposal, over the past two months, Seattle Partners has actively sought feedback from community leaders, City staff and members of the City’s Community Advisory Council, and, in response, we have explored improvements to our proposal. However, consistent with a general lack of active engagement through this evaluation process, the City declined to seek improved terms, refusing requests from us and others to call for a “best and final” offer from both bidders. We have seen little indication of the collaborative and iterative process we were told to expect and is typical of such requests for proposals.

In addition, the City’s decision to withhold critical financial portions of Oak View Group’s proposal from the public, while releasing the financial details of our proposal with our full support, raises serious questions about the integrity of the decision-making process and the ability of the public to make a fair and equitable comparison.

Despite the lack of transparency, we are generally familiar with Oak View Group’s proposal, including changes to it that have been conveyed via media accounts and otherwise. Based on our experience, we have strong reservations about whether that proposal can be successfully achieved consistent with the City’s best interests. If the City elects to proceed with that remaining proposal, to protect the public interests of Seattle, it is imperative that you closely and diligently monitor the process to ensure that Oak View Group is held accountable for all elements of what it has very publicly promised to the citizens of Seattle.

Seattle Partners remains deeply committed to this great city, and we thank the countless civic leaders who offered helpful input and partnership on our proposal. We wish the City the best of luck in its pursuit of an arena project that can provide what the region’s passionate sports fans deserve – to see the Sonics and professional hockey return to the Emerald City.


Bob Newman

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