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Wally Walker breaks down benefits of Sodo Arena

Sonicsgate SoDo Arena

Former Sonics forward/president/general manager and Sodo Arena investor Wally Walker penned an article on the website earlier today, laying out the benefits of his group’s Sodo Arena over a renovated KeyArena.

Walker started by pointing out that himself, Chris Hansen, Pete and Erik Nordstrom, and Russell Wilson have put both time and money into this project.

Since we began the process in 2011, we have invested more than $100 million to acquire the land in the Stadium District, paid for a lengthy environmental review as well as traffic, parking and economic impact studies.

Walker also pointed out that his group actually did consider KeyArena before deciding on the Sodo location, and found that it would not be worth the effort to bring it up to standard.

Before choosing the Stadium District site, we took a long and careful look at KeyArena. That review led us to the conclusion that the traffic, parking and other issues at that location and the surrounding dense Uptown Neighborhood, posed significant obstacles to developing a fan-friendly, major league sports venue.

Walker, of course, has personal experience with KeyArena, playing there when it was still called the Seattle Center Coliseum, and being a member of the team’s front office in it’s later iteration.

I have had a lot of personal history with Key Arena and with its predecessor, the Seattle Center Coliseum. Going back to the Pleistocene era when I played…the Sonics competed for the NBA Championship at that site and again in 1996.

He goes on to talk up the transit benefits of Sodo over Lower Queen Anne, as well as dispute some of the claims made by the Port of Seattle.

Unlike the KeyArena site, the Stadium District enjoys an existing and robust transportation network that is well suited to handle large-scale events. This transportation network includes local and regional connections to ferries, buses, light rail, heavy rail and freeways, all within an easy walk to the Arena. Our project also includes ample parking options within the Arena vicinity.

The freight mobility concerns raised by the Port of Seattle are misplaced. Almost all the events at the SODO Arena would take place at night, well after Port operations have closed. NBA fans in general, show up at their arena, very close to game time. There is no tailgating in January in Seattle and the Arena doors would not even open until 90 minutes before the tip.

Walker says that not only did the FEIS determine that Occidental Avenue is not vital to freight transportation, but that it would be “dead-ended” regardless due to the Lander Street Overpass, “making that stretch of Occidental even less useful to the SODO transportation network.”

Walker has previously said that the real estate in Sodo is seeing a boom right now and that the land that Chris Hansen has purchased has only appreciated in value. He seemed to double down on that in the article, saying that it would be developed regardless.

It’s important to understand that if the Council rejects the street vacation, it is likely that the site will be commercially developed, allowable under current zoning. That alternative would generate significant peak-period traffic that would be in direct conflict with the freight community.

Walker also pointed out a key (no pun intended) benefit of the Sodo arena over KeyArena, and that’s the fact that it would generate property tax for the city.

SODO Arena would generate significant property tax revenue for the City, County, Port and State. In fact, a rough estimate of the property tax paid annually to the city of Seattle alone should exceed $1,000,000, per year. Local and state schools should get well north of $3,000,000 per year from the outset, just from the property tax alone, on the SODO Arena. Over the expected thirty-year plus life of the Arena, our schools should receive an incremental $100,000,000 from this privately owned and financed building. This doesn’t even begin to factor the large amount of sales tax generated, which benefits the City, County and State, particularly if we can attract both the NBA and NHL.

Walker concludes by pointing out that the benefit package attached to the street vacation petition totals more than $27 million and that a shovel-ready arena “sends a strong message to the NBA and NHL that Seattle is ready and eager for teams.”