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Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster’s Parent Company Reportedly Form an Unlikely Union in Seattle


When Pearl Jam were recently inducted by David Letterman into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the former late night talk show host’s most pointed barbs was aimed at the band’s infamous mid-90s battle with Ticketmaster when he said, “In 1994, these young men risked their careers by going after those beady-eyed, blood-thirsty weasels; I’m just enjoying saying that.” Now, nearly 25 years after that David v. Goliath-like battle, the two sworn enemies have apparently joined forces in a surprising move involving the band’s hometown venue the KeyArena in Seattle.

Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, has reportedly enlisted Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis in a partnership proposal to upgrade the venue long criticized for its lack of acceptable sound and acoustics for concerts. Azoff MSG Entertainment and the Oak View Group [OVG], who were responsible for the widely praised overhaul of New York’s Madison Square Garden, are also on board.

“They don’t love the acoustics,” OVG CEO Tim Leiweke tells Billboard of Pearl Jam’s current stance on the KeyArena. “But they love Seattle, and they want us to design it so that it’s just exactly like the music experience at the Garden.”

One of the more interesting aspects of Pearl Jam’s participation in the revamp is the potential for the group to perform an extended residency, much like Billy Joel has done at Madison Square Garden. That alone would negate the need for an NHL or NBA franchise, both of which haven’t been in Seattle since the SuperSonics basketball team split in 2008 under contentious circumstances. The city hasn’t had a professional hockey team since 1924.

“If we don’t have their partnership here and we’re not able to do 40-plus nights of music and we don’t have Pearl Jam … we couldn’t stand on our own two feet and take this risk,” Leiweke said of the $564 millions proposal, according to the Seattle Times. “We’re going to build it, and we believe they [teams] will come. And if they don’t come, we’re not going to get killed.”

Leiweke acknowledged that it isn’t realistic to propose going 20 years without a sports franchise, despite basing the remodel on the Los Angeles Forum, which doesn’t host a pro sport.

“The Forum works because [Executive Chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company James Dolan] spent some 120 million odd dollars on it,’’ he said. “But it’s like looking at [Madison Square Garden] and saying ‘Would you spend $1 billion renovating it without the Knicks and the Rangers?’ The answer is no.’’

The current operator of the KeyArena, AEG, has their own ideas on what to do with the building, including renaming it the Seattle Coliseum, and has a smaller price tag on the renovations at $520 million. Both proposals are currently in front of Seattle city officials, who will make a recommendation and put it in front of Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Council in the coming weeks.

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