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Rumors of Key Arena’s demise have been greatly exaggerated [UPDATED]

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Mayor Ed Murray has been quietly soliciting offers on the 56 year old building

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship-UCLA vs Oregon State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve used the roller coast analogy more than a couple times here and it’s seemed pretty apt. We all know that once a roller coaster goes up, it has to come back down. It also includes many twists and turns and today brings us yet another one.

We had heard rumors that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray still wanted Key Arena to be the once and future home for the NBA behind the scenes. We now know just how far along that dream is. KING 5’s Chris Daniels, speaking to the mayor's budget director Ben Noble, revealed that their office has spoken to “ more than one legitimate group” about funding a Key Arena renovation. These groups have seemingly bought into the 2015 AECOM report that said rotating the playing surface 45 degrees would allow for more (albeit smaller) seats. Of course, it said nothing of concourses or aisle ways, but I digress.

None of the groups are named in Daniels’s report, but he speculates that AEG - who currently operates the Key for the city - could be one potential bidder, as could the Madison Square Garden Company - who own Madison Square Garden in New York and The Forum in Los Angeles. When asked by KING 5, they declined to comment. Christopher and Ted Ackerley, who previously confirmed to Sonics Rising their involvement in attempting to bring back the NBA, were not mentioned in Daniels’s article.

Noble says that “there are perhaps legs" to some of the conversations, and could go so far as to issue a Request for Proposal this December. A request for proposal (RFP) is “a document that solicits proposal, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.” It’d basically be the Mayor’s way of making these conversations something more formal. Noble believes this is why Chris Hansen pushed all his chips in the middle yesterday, offering to privately fund his arena plan in SODO. It’s unknown at this time if any Key Arena plans would require public financing.

I have personally been steadfast in my belief that nothing short of a complete tear-down of the entire Key Arena plaza would be sufficient for an arena in that location, and even that would not address the litany of traffic and parking issues in the area. Parking was bad in 1999 and now there are more cars on the road and less parking garages in Lower Queen Anne, having been turned into condos or into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Noble says that “transportation would have to be” part of the RFP.

However, I have been even more steadfast in my support of “whatever brings the Sonics back.” If someone can prove me wrong and get an arena plan that meets the approval of the NBA and NHL in the current Key Arena location, I’m all for it. I, personally, just don’t see it happening and I, personally, think the AECOM report doesn’t address all the issues with the current arena.

According to Daniels’s sources, Chris Hansen had no objections to the city exploring Key Arena changes, further showing his true desire is simply to return the NBA to our city. As long as this doesn’t block the SODO arena plans, I’m okay with it. As Noble said, "Competition, from the city's perspective, is a good thing." If we can have multiple applications for expansion, should either league reopen that process, that could only help.

UPDATE 10/27/2016 12:21 pm

The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker reports that the group behind the Key Arena renovation is The Oak View Group, led by former Tampa Bay Lightning president Tim Leiweke and media mogul Irving Azoff.