The city of Seattle has three proposals before it for a new state-of-the-art arena to support professional sports, concerts, and cultural events. The anticipation is to decide on a single project this fall and move forward on a clear course of action for the future. So, what's next in the process?
The three options:
Location: 1st Ave S/S Massachusetts St/S Holgate St, SoDo
Estimated Cost*: $550 million
Estimated Size: 700,000 sq ft.
Seating Capacity: 18,500 (basketball), 17,500 (hockey), 19,000 (concerts), can expand up to 2,000 additional
Additional Feature: On-site training facility
Investor Chris Hansen's group - including former Sonics player and executive Wally Walker, retail empire magnates Erik and Pete Nordstrom, and Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson - offered in October 2016 to fully finance the project privately in exchange for an exemption on admission taxes and a reduction of the business & occupation taxes charged on revenue made outside of Seattle. The group seeks a two-block vacation of S Occidental Avenue that bisects the arena site. Their public benefits package, which includes a public plaza, living machine water reclamation system, pedestrian/bike bridge over train tracks, a parking garage with potentially larger capacity than the Mariners' garage, financial contribution to freight mobility improvements, and an earmark for the money paid for Occidental Ave to go to the Lander Street overpass project, was recently given unanimous approval recommendation by the Seattle Design Commission.
New Arena at Seattle Center
Location: 305 Harrison Street, Lower Queen Anne/Uptown
Estimated Cost*: $564 million
Estimated Size: 660,000 sq ft.
Seating Capacity: 18,350 (basketball), 17,100 (hockey), 19,100 (concerts)
Arena management and consultancy Oak View Group - created and headed by former NBA executive, former NHL executive, and former president of AEG Tim Leiweke, and music industry artist mogul Irving Azoff - has proposed a renovation of the existing KeyArena that would dig down 15 feet to expand the footprint of the arena and more than double the existing square footage. Anticipating landmark status, the project would retain the building's distinctive roof and the outer walls above ground. A new atrium would be added to the south end for entrance and an 850-spot parking garage would be built to accommodate suite-level ticketholders. A ramp going beneath Thomas Street will open to an expanded marshaling area with 8 loading docks. The group proposes a 35-year lease with the city for the land with five (5) 10-year extensions possible. The project would be built privately and OVG offers a $1 million annual lease rate with the potential to increase rent payments if annual revenue thresholds are hit. The potential to negotiate tax revenues to feed back into the operation and maintenance of the arena has been left open.
Location: 305 Harrison Street, Lower Queen Anne/Uptown
Estimated Cost*: $520 million
Estimated Size: 600,000 sq ft.
Seating Capacity: 18,113 (basketball), 17,120 (hockey), 19,202 (concerts)
Anschutz Entertainment Group, the world's largest developer and manager of arenas, has partnered with real estate firm Hudson Pacific Properties and a number of local firms to form Seattle Partners. They have proposed a renovation of KeyArena that retains the roof and building while expanding the southern wall to increase the footprint. This would allow for more seating and a centering of the ice rink. Hudson Pacific founder, president, CEO, and chairman of the board Victor Coleman had previously engaged with Chris Hansen on partnering on the SoDo location as its hockey investor, but financial specifics of a relationship were never negotiated. Seattle Partners feels without having to dig that the renovation will be the least disruptive to the existing building. The group made the "suggestion" of the city partnering on the construction of the facility by offering $250 million in bond-backed public financing to be paid back by arena and tax revenues generated by the new facility. It would be a deal strikingly similar to the one negotiated by Chris Hansen with the city and county for the existing (and still active) SoDo arena MOU back in 2012.
*Estimated cost is just for arena project. Environmental & traffic mitigation and public benefit cost not included.
What's Next for KeyArena Proposals
City staffers will now spend weeks sifting through the hundreds of pages of the proposals, working with arena and legal experts to determine the benefits and challenges of each proposal. The proposals will then go to two entities, a 10-member community advisory panel and a 3-member executive review team. Each will review the proposals independently, then meet to determine a recommendation. The executive review team will recommend a single proposal (or none of the proposals) to Mayor Ed Murray, who will continue to be advised by the community panel.
Ultimately, Murray will make a decision on which proposal to move forward with.
Historic Landmark Status
The city has submitted applications to nominate KeyArena and six other buildings on the identified renovation project site for historical landmark status per State Environmental Protection Agency statutes. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will review and potentially approve the nominations. They will then review the nominations to see if they meet specific criteria for landmark designation. If the Board designates the arena and/or any of the buildings as landmarks, they will negotiate a Controls & Incentives Agreement with the city/Seattle Center. Per the city:
Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features. Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives.
After the agreement has been reached, the Board will forward ordinance legislation to the city council for the designation(s). The council will vote to approve or deny the ordinance.
What's Next for SoDo
The SoDo proposal is now in the hands of the Seattle Department of Transportation. They will go through an analysis of the project, draft a report, and make a recommendation to the city council's Select Committee on Civic Arenas on whether to grant the proposed street vacation or not. As they have gone through this process with the arena before, it's likely most of their analysis can be reused. SDOT does now have to take into consideration plans for S Occidental Avenue to be dead-ended at Lander Street for the overpass project. There is no deadline or timeline on when their analysis and recommendation will be done.
A Timeline of What's Next
Here is a timeline of the next steps in the process. Some of this is in flux as analysis of the three projects could change when events take place.
Monday, April 17, 2017, ~10:30am - The Select Committee on Civic Arenas will meet to discuss the two KeyArena proposals submitted by the April 12th deadline. This will take place in council chambers at City Hall following the weekly Monday morning full council briefing. There is a 20-minute public comment period with each speaking person allotted 2 minutes of time. You must sign up to speak and spots are limited.
#SonicBoomDay - Find out here how to voice your opinion to the council today to let them know which project you are in favor of and the reasons why it would be best for the city!
Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 2:00pm-5:00pm - OVG and Seattle Partners will interview (likely separate) with the community advisory panel to discuss their proposals. This will not be open to the public.
Thursday, April 27, 2017, TBD - OVG and Seattle Partners will interview (likely separate) with Mayor Ed Murray to discuss their proposals. This will not be open to the public.
Thursday, May 11, 2017, 5:00pm-8:00pm - A public open house will be held at KEXP at Seattle Center, right next to KeyArena, to meet with OVG and Seattle Partners to review and discuss the two proposals.
Friday, June 30, 2017 - Deadline for the executive review team to submit their recommendation to Mayor Murray.
Monday, July 10, 2017, ~10:30am - Mayor Murray will present his decision on the KeyArena proposals to the Select Committee on Civic Arenas. This will take place in council chambers at City Hall following the weekly Monday morning full council briefing. There is a 20-minute public comment period with each speaking person allotted 2 minutes of time. You must sign up to speak and spots are limited.
TBD - Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will host a public meeting to discuss the nominations of KeyArena and six other buildings for historical landmark status. The board may vote to approve all or part of the buildings for nomination at the meeting.
30-60 Days after nomination, TBD - Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will host another public meeting to discuss designation of KeyArena or other buildings nominated for landmark status.
TBD - Seattle Department of Transportation will submit report and recommendation on SoDo project street vacation petition to Select Committee on Civic Arenas.
TBD - A public hearing on the SoDo project street vacation petition will be set by the Select Committee on Civic Arenas. Like in March 2016, this will likely occur in council chambers at City Hall at 5:30pm to give plenty in the community time to voice their opinion. Each speaker will be allotted 2 minutes of time, but speakers will likely be able to pool their time and have one person speak for them longer.
TBD - City Council will submit and sponsor legislation on the SoDo project street vacation petition to send to the Select Committee on Civic Arenas.
TBD - Select Committee on Civic Arenas will discuss SoDo project street vacation legislation and make any amendments. They will vote to move legislation to the full council for a vote.
August/September 2017, TBD - If voted to move to the full council, the City Council will review and discuss the SoDo project street vacation legislation and vote on it. This will take place in council chambers at City Hall following the weekly Monday morning full council briefing. There is a 20-minute public comment period with each speaking person allotted 2 minutes of time. You must sign up to speak and spots are limited. In May 2016, the council opted to take public comment for nearly 2 hours before voting.
Though no official timeline has been determined, city council president Bruce Harrell told Ian Furness of KJR 950AM radio that he anticipated the vote on the SoDo street vacation would occur sometime in August or September.
TBD - If KeyArena or any of the buildings are designated landmarks, Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will negotiate a Controls & Incentives Agreement with the city/Seattle Center.
August/September/October 2017, TBD - After the agreement, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will submit landmark designation ordinance legislation to the city council. Council will review, amend (if necessary), and vote to approve or deny landmark status.
August/September/October 2017, TBD - City council will negotiate a development and lease agreement with the KeyArena renovation bid winner.
November 7, 2017 - Washington State General Elections, includes mayoral election for the City of Seattle and election for the two at-large, city-wide city council seats currently occupied by Tim Burgess (retiring) and Lorena Gonzalez.
December 3, 2017 - End date of the effective period of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the City of Seattle, King County, and WSA Properties III, LLC (“ArenaCo”) in 2012.
By the end of 2017, we should have a decision on a single arena and path forward to bring back our Sonics and bring the NHL to Seattle.