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Sodo Arena team releases project updates

Sonics Arena in SoDo

The Sonics Arena team have released a new video on their (revamped) website, detailing some aspects of their proposal. The 5:35 video is narrated by Mark Brands, co-founder of SiteWorkshop, the landscape architect for the project. He lays out the history of the arena’s permitting process, detailing their approval from the Downtown Design Review Board as well as the Seattle Design Commission.

The video goes on to say that their new proposal addresses the concerns that they heard from the Seattle City Council when it denied their street vacation proposal a year ago. As expected, they announced that the arena would now be 100% privately funded. There were no details as to what their funding mechanism would be, but we do know that Steve Ballmer is still invested in the real estate project.

The video also says that the arena would have a capacity of 20,000 seats. Previous indications were a capacity of 18,500 for basketball and 17,500 for hockey, with flex seating in the “Sonic Rings” for an additional 2,000. It’s unclear from the video what, exactly, the 20,000 capacity is for or if that’s just the maximum. It also compares this to Safeco Field (47,000) and CenturyLink Field (72,000).

The video goes on to say that the reason Sodo was selected as the arena site was due largely to the transportation options already available. This includes light rail, heavy rail, freeways, and even ferries. They also address parking, saying there is “substantial on-street and off-street” parking in the area.

They detail the street vacation, saying that the group would be buying 40,000 square feet of land (meaning the one block of Occidental Avenue proposed to be vacated) at appraised market value. They also reiterate that the vacation would not occur until a team, be it NBA or NHL, is secured. “No team means no vacation, which means no risk to the city.” They also quote the recent transit study, as well as the FEIS, which says that the stretch of road is not vital to Sodo freight movement. The video goes on to discuss the Lander Street Bridge, pointing out that it would create a dead end of Occidental Avenue just south of the arena.

There is also mention of the joint scheduling agreement with the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders. The agreement is laid out, saying that it would drastically reduce the possibilities of more than one event on the same day, optimizing traffic and transportation to the area.

As for what would happen to the area if the street vacation is once again denied, the video says that the developers would look to build office buildings, which the area is already zoned for. These buildings would create conflict with the freight community, as their hours of operation would be similar to those of the Port of Seattle, whereas an arena would not operate outside of nights and weekends.

Additionally, they reiterate that their public benefits package includes nearly 32,000 square feet of public space, similar in size and scale to Occidental Park and Westlake Park. This space was designed with the community in mind, encouraging year round uses and featuring public art and water features. Speaking of public art, the public benefits package also includes 1.5% of the total construction budget, or nearly $8 million, of funding those projects.

The final point is on transportation improvements, including the realignment and widening of Massachusetts Street, a “makeover” of South Holgate Street including an 800 foot long pedestrian and bike bridge, and the funding of several projects from the Freight Master Plan by the arena group “to further support freight mobility in the Sodo neighborhood.”

The next step is a second vote on the street vacation vote, currently tentatively scheduled for some time in September. The Sodo group believes a positive vote this time around puts them in the best position to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle.