Old Foes Pearl Jam & Ticketmaster Join Forces on Seattle Arena
What better place to call a truce with your former enemy than in your hometown?
Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster famously fought over fees and the future of ticketing in the '90s, but now the band's manager has signed on with an alliance that includes the ticket company's owners Live Nation, along with Azoff MSG Entertainment and the Oak View Group, to win the contract to develop Seattle's KeyArena against competitor and current venue operator AEG. To sweeten the deal, Live Nation and Pearl Jam's manager Kelly Curtis are teasing the possibility of a Pearl Jam residency at the renovated Pacific Northwest arena that will be modeled after The Forum in Los Angeles.
"Our intent is to have them play the building a lot, and we'll figure out what that means once we get it done," Tim Leiweke tells Billboard. The pitchman and OVG CEO has signed on with Investment bank Goldman Sachs for financial backing and hired Populous and ICON to design and construct the facility, which drops the lower bowl 15 feet and comes with a major acoustical upgrade.
"They don't love the acoustics," Leiweke's said of Pearl Jam's feelings for 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."
Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster famously went to war in 1994, with the Seattle grunge band accusing the ticketing giant of acting like a monopoly, and demanding the company charge no more than a $1.80 service fee for tickets the band played in support of their Vs. album. Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard testified before Congress against Ticketmaster and the band even tried to tour non-Ticketmaster venues, before eventually reaching a truce and agreeing to use the ticketing service for the bulk of its tours.
The OVG, Pearl Jam-backed plan for KeyArena calls for a 19,000-seat concert venue that could also host a hockey or professional basketball team if the city is able to lure an NBA or NHL squad back to Seattle. AEG is pitching its own design for the "Seattle Coliseum," which "will provide increased capacity for entertainment and sporting events, including the latest in luxury suites -- top-line suites and terraced seats -- while retaining the intimacy of the current configuration, and Seattle’s legendary 12th Man phenomenon," a statement from AEG reads.
While both sides are pushing the superiority of their plans, they're also digging in for an entrenched fight and trying to frame their opponents as right-wing, against Seattle's liberal, left-leaning reputation. OVG is actively pushing a narrative that AEG-owner Phil Anschutz is opposed to gay marriage, following on reports that the billionaire donated to anti-LGBTQ groups like the Family Research Council. Anschutz said he cut ties with the group and his reps are hitting back, arguing that MSG-owner James Dolan is a Donald Trump supporter who forced the Radio City Rockettes to perform at his presidential inauguration, despite protests from the dancers.
With the rhetoric already heating up, expect the battle for Seattle to get ugly quick with residents rebuking both billionaires and wondering why Pearl Jam "can't find a better man" to repurpose the iconic Seattle venue.