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Seattle to pursue KeyArena development plans amid NBA, NHL franchise efforts

The City of Seattle and investment firm Oak View Group (OVG) have agreed a deal to redevelop the KeyArena in a move that could return NBA basketball or NHL ice hockey to the Washington city, while NHL franchise the Calgary Flames has dropped plans to build a new arena in the Canadian city.

Seattle and OVG have submitted a draft proposal for the redevelopment project to Seattle City Council, in the hope of starting work in October 2018.

The initial proposal includes plans to use $600m (€501.1m/£450.2m) in private funding to support the project. According to the Associated Press news agency, Seattle City Council will not vote on the final plan until the first week of December.

Should the project secure formal approval, Seattle and OVG hope to complete all work by October 2020, with the ultimate goal of KeyArena becoming a home to an NBA or NHL franchise.

KeyArena is currently home to WNBA women’s basketball franchise the Seattle Storm and Seattle University’s Redhawks men’s basketball team. However, the venue was also previously home to NBA team the Seattle Supersonics, prior to its relocation to Oklahoma City ahead of the 2008-09 season.

Ice hockey league the NHL also has no presence in the city and Seattle had been linked to the competition’s latest expansion process, which saw Las Vegas awarded a franchise in June 2016.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of OVG, said: “I think the most important part of this MoU is the fact it states very clearly to the leagues that this project is going to happen, we do have a deal with the city, they can make a deal.

“They are very focused ultimately not only on building a new arena here and giving us the partnership and certainty in order to do that.

“But more importantly it sends a very strong message now to the NBA and to the NHL that everyone worried about, `Yeah will it ever get done with the city? Will they ever be able to get to the finish line? Will you ever possibly get this deal done within the politics of Seattle and the Seattle process as everyone likes to call it?”

Meanwhile, Ken King, president and chief executive of the Calgary Flames, has said that the NHL franchise will not pursue plans to build a new arena in its home city.

The team had held talks with officials in Calgary over plans to replace the team’s current Scotiabank Saddledome with a new venue, but King has now told TSN that the franchise has not been able to reach an agreement with the City.

King said: “I think they came to the right conclusion. We’ve been working for a long time trying to come up with a formula that really works to replace this building and we really put our best foot forward and I’ve come to the conclusion sadly and I’m very disappointed that I don’t think we can make a deal that works for us.

“I think the city’s come to the same conclusion, I don’t think they can make a deal that works for them.”

King’s comments come after NBA commissioner Gary Bettman issued a warning to both the team and the City of Calgary of the “consequences” that would follow if a new stadium project did not go ahead.

Bettman told Metro Calgary: “Without a new building there will be consequences. Negotiations are over. They’ll play out the string here as long as they can.”

The Saddledome is now 34 years old and Bettman added that the decision will affect the competitive position of the Flames in the NHL. He added, according to the Calgary Sun newspaper: “They're going to hang on as long as they can. At least, that's the current view.

“That's not a prospect that thrills them or anybody else. But it is a realistic assessment of the situation they find themselves in.”