Mattson Joins OVG’s KeyArena Rebuild Team

Steve Mattson has been tapped to be the director of operations for Oak View Group’s rebuild of Seattle’s iconic KeyArena. Mattson comes to the project after a 16-year run as VP/GM of Target Center, Minneapolis.

Steve Mattson
– Steve Mattson

(Full disclosure: Pollstar is owned by OVG)

In his new position, Mattson will oversee the approval, construction, and pre-opening phases of KeyArena at Seattle Center. Mattson will provide critical operator background on analysis, labor relations, design and overall understanding of how the arena will operate upon opening. Having just completed an 18-month, $140 Million renovation at Target Center, Mattson brings relevant experience to the entire design and construction process.

“OVG approached me in the early fall as I was finishing up at Target Center,” said Mattson, who officially started on Oct. 23, and is working out of a Seattle office. “OVG is developing a $600-plus million project in Seattle, and while there are historic elements to the arena that will be preserved, I wouldn’t call the project a renovation, it’s essentially the creation of a new National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball League (NBA)-capable facility.”

If everything moves along on track, ground will break in October 2018, and the new KeyArena will open in October 2020.

“What I bring to the OVG team is arena background,” said Mattson. “As general manager of Target Center, I’ve run an NBA building in a major market for the last 16 years. What my joining the OVG team does is bring in someone who understands the building, and the city, to the project.”

“As an arena operator, this project is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Mattson. “We will deliver a cutting edge and innovative world-class arena to Seattle and make it one of the most desired sports and live entertainment venues in the country.”

The design team is led by Populous and the owner’s representatives are CAA and ICON Venue Group. “We are working on a pretty quick timeline,” said Mattson. 

“We’re just beginning the NHL process of creating an expansion team,” he said. “The facility will be dual-purpose and every element of it will be capable of hosting both NHL and NBA.”

Mattson fully expects to have an NHL team in place for the 2020 opening. “Last week the NHL gave OVG a preliminary OK to proceed in the expansion process,” he said. “That process will begin shortly, and if all is accomplished, we’ll become the 32nd team of the NHL in 2020.”

The road to securing an NBA team is not as easily traveled.

“At this point there is not an expansion opportunity, but our whole goal is to prove to the NBA that through our NHL process that we’re ripe for a team. The combination of bringing a world-class venue to Seattle and a NHL team will, down the road, certainly get the NBA ready to grant Seattle a team.”

Following last week’s monumental passing of the Memo of Understanding (MOU) between the city of Seattle and OVG, and its signing by Mayor Durkan and OVG CEO Tim Leiweke, come the arduous tasks of completing a environmental study, lease agreements, and permitting. While time-consuming, Mattson does not see any of the long-form documents to be an issue in the process of breaking ground.

“The development is on a fast-track and I don’t see anything that will derail the building of the new arena,” said Mattson. “I’m working with the design group, concessionaire (Delaware North), event-booking elements, hiring of staff,and all the things that relate to the operations of a new building now so we are ready to roll when the construction is over.”

“There’s a lot of hard work ahead,” he said. “We’ve got such a great partner in the city and the path we’re on will see the building only down for two years.”

Mattson said that the KeyArena project is not comparable to the $140 million Target Center renovation he oversaw. “That building was a 27-year-old building, which is half the age of KeyArena. The renovations covered a lot but this is a major undertaking.  We’re utilizing the protected roof and landmarks but everything else is brand new.”

Mattson said that once the building is open, he anticipates being a part of the project long term.

“Steve is a special talent in our industry and someone who has a track record of excellence and innovation in his work as an operator and in his dealings with the professional sports leagues,” said Tim Leiweke, OVG CEO. “His expertise will be critical as we move into the next phase of our work with the City of Seattle in revitalizing the Key Arena and Seattle Center.”

The MOU called for a fully privately funded redevelopment of KeyArena at Seattle Center and for OVG to construct, operate, and maintain a redeveloped arena nearly double the size of KeyArena. It anticipates a 39-year lease with two eight-year renewal options for a total of up to 55 years. The arena will also be designed to preserve the current and historic roofline, and meet LEED Gold or equivalent standards.

“The new arena will be something special and something the city will be proud of,” added Mattson. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”