Tim Leiweke is “100% certain” that they will bring the Sonics back to Seattle.
The CEO of Oak View Group, the developers of the city’s new Climate Pledge Arena, spoke with KJR 950-AM’s Dave “Softy” Mahler and Dick Fain on Thursday afternoon to offer insight into the NBA efforts.
In a 20-minute conversation, Lewieke reiterated that the group isn’t going to get ahead of the owners and NBA commissioner Adam Silver on the process. They are ready to go as soon as the league is ready to move forward on expansion.
“When the day comes, and it will, and [the NBA] says ‘We’re going to begin the [expansion] process, ‘I am 100 percent certain we’re going to get the Sonics back.”
He pointed to their methodical effort in securing the arena deal with the city, as well as their successful pursuit of an NHL expansion franchise. The new arena is set to open in October ahead of the inaugural season for the Seattle Kraken.
OVG and the hockey ownership made sure to predict what the NBA would want in the arena, would want with revenue, and would want in ownership, Leiweke shared. This was built into the arena process, from design to construction to sponsorship deals they made sure would be NBA-friendly as well.
Cascadia SN has also confirmed that plans for an NBA practice facility have been factored into the NHL team headquarters and ice center in Northgate. “It is not part of the current construction, but there is the possibility within the current footprint,” the Kraken front office told us.
A key part of the NBA focus is Kraken majority co-owner David Bonderman, Leiweke stressed. Also a minority owner of the Boston Celtics, “Bondo” has a good relationship and connections with the NBA. The arena and hockey organizations on the whole have “enormous” NBA experience, he added.
Leiweke, himself, was an executive with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Denver Nuggets, and of course the Los Angeles Lakers through his work with AEG, and the Toronto Raptors as one-time president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Mahler and Fain asked about the rumored $2.5 billion expansion fee being bandied about. Leiweke wouldn’t speculate, but added that Silver “doesn’t do kneejerk” and would safeguard the long-term condition of the league.
The NBA isn’t in any danger of folding, but consideration of expansion follows a year where the league took it in the teeth financially due to pandemic impacts.
The exec shared an outlook “Bondo” took when everyone was discussing the record-breaking expansion fee paid for the Kraken: It’s more on how you pay than what you pay.
Ultimately, the addition of Seattle to the NBA portends to add significant value that could prove more beneficial to owners than solely the influx of cash from a one-time fee.
Asked what he thought of the possibility of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos joining a Sonics team ownership, he pointed to a “phenomenal” partnership the arena group has had with Amazon regarding the arena naming rights. If Bezos proves interested, Leiweke sees him as nothing but a positive for the team, the city, and the league.
While offering no timeline, he is bullish on things going Seattle’s way. He asked for fans and supporters to “just have faith,” offering they’ve provided on every promise and goal they’ve made in the past five years.
“We’re going to get there. I’m very confident that this will end well for everyone in Seattle.”