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Ed Murray: SoDo remains the best arena location not only in the city, but in all of King County

The complaining from the Port of Seattle through their newspaper, the Seattle Times, has ratcheted up.

Proposed Sonics Arena
Proposed Sonics Arena

Seattle Times seeks delay, again

This past week Seattle hockey and basketball fans saw two Seattle Times opinion writers and the editorial board come out against the SoDo location for an arena due to their feelings about traffic, even though Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told them that "Sodo remains the best arena location not only in the city, but in all of King County." The Seattle Times ignored that and the Seattle Department of Planning and Development determination, using something called facts, that an arena would not be a significant impact to traffic. Further, the Seattle DPD determined that the arena in SoDo would provide a public benefit.

It's the opinion of opponents of hockey and basketball returning to Seattle sooner rather than much later that the city should stop, with its nose at the finish line, and start all over again with new people, new proposals, new owner vetting, new negotiations, another epic EIS, based on an email from somebody that might be interested in Key Arena. This is the same Key Arena site every other investor has passed on over the past decade.

Mayor Ed Murray dismissed this half-baked idea by noting that it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

"To spend a lot of money on an alternative future that may never happen — because this (Hansen) future might happen — I think would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. I think the redevelopment of KeyArena and a bunch of other exciting opportunities around Seattle Center are really, really important. But they’re not going to be easy to finance.

"And the idea that someone just suddenly shows up and out of the goodness of their heart can finance everything that we want I think is really questionable. If that were true, then KeyArena would have been solved years ago.’’

Yes, sir, it would have been solved years ago, and we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Sonics fans would be watching basketball and hockey fans would be arguing over the name of their new franchise. Make no mistake, stopping now to discuss failed ideas of the past would tack on at least three years just to get to the point we are at with SoDo, today, which is still nowhere in the eyes of the NHL and NBA.

More broadly, if a $285 million dollar private investment made good business sense to bring the NHL to the region first, as the Seattle Times implies, then Ray Bartoszek would not have had a problem attracting private investment for his proposed arena in Tukwilla. Tukwilla, Key Arena, wherever, hockey first with a privately financed arena doesn't currently pencil out. Bellevue was prepared to provide a parking garage for an east side effort, but that wasn't enough there. Victor Coleman rejected the Key Arena site, preferring the SoDo location. Stopping the MOU process with Chris Hansen now because an email from Albuquerque may possess a secret too-good-to-be-true economic formula for private funding is absurd.

Fact free complaining Port of Seattle, again

What is just as puzzling about the Seattle Times Groundhog Day opposition to SoDo is that they have yet to have their opinion supported by facts provided by the the folks that I guess are calling the shots at the newspaper, the Port of Seattle. The only time the Port of Seattle provided any numbers for anything related to the arena they were declared by the Seattle Times to be lacking any real facts.

Dual Port arm twisting extravaganza

The Port of Seattle's opposition strategy is to provide a very detailed study on the overwhelming impacts of the arena... just kidding. No such thing exists. They are going to complain and twist arms of politicians. They have lobbied Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and, apparently, Washington State Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island (an epic flip-flop).

Port of Seattle's Friday Memo, April 3, 2015, notes:

SODO Arena : Stephanie [Bowman] and Tom [Albro] met with Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw 3/31 to explore partnerships to seek potential alternative sites for a NBA arena that won ’t conflict with maritime operations.  To support the effort, port staff are developing a public affairs plan around the May 7 release of the arena final EIS. [memo obtained via public records request]

I guess that explains Bagshaw's answers to me about her support for the new arena sounding a lot like talking points from the Port. It looks like she has a different idea of what it is to "follow through carefully with the MOU conditions signed between Chris Hansen and the City" than Ed Murray does. She could always look at the EIS and the DPD report and change her mind, or not.

And that's the breadth and depth of their opposition, they oppose it, fact free. Rather than show how a new arena would cause an impact that can't be overcome they are just going to twist arms, that's the Port. By the way, new city councilmembers, prepare to have your arms twisted by the Port of Tacoma, too. Yes, the dual port alliance of the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma will produce a study (still kidding), no, they will put political pressure on new  councilmembers.

What they are complaining about

Here is a map of what the area will look like with two blocks of Occidental Avenue vacated for the arena. The street, a green dash line, was already vacated once and now runs under Safeco Field, extending past the Mariners parking garage and vanishing again on the far right under the arena.

Stadium District

Proposed future Stadium District traffic

Here is a map of freight mobility through the area will look like with an arena.

Proposed freight mobility through the Stadium District

Proposed freight mobility through the Stadium District

Here is a link to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, see FEIS Appendix E - Transportation for 499 pages of nothing but transportation data, information, and analysis. And see this summary, here, of the EIS from Chris Hansen, specifically, "No significant unavoidable adverse impacts to the street system, public transportation, bicyclists, and bicycle corridors are expected."

To this date, the Port has not provided facts, data, information and analysis in opposition. Nope, it's nothing but complaining and arm twisting from them. It just sad that some people take their antics seriously.