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Seattle’s third option

Much has been made over the last several months about the difficult decision facing Seattle sports fans and government.

Do we choose the proposal put forward by the Oak View Group, contractually binding the Oak View Group to spend $600 million on KeyArena renovations and virtually clear the path for the NHL’s arrival in 2020 or, alternatively, remain loyal to Chris Hansen and choose to move forward with his option, holding out hope that a shovel ready arena in Sodo can someday attract the NBA?

Nobody likes to talk about the third option: NOTHING

Nothing is a familiar outcome for fans of the NBA and NHL in Seattle. It’s what we’ve been left with in each of the last several iterations. It’s what we got when we watched competition between Bellevue, Seattle, and Renton in the early Clay Bennett years. We took nothing on the day NHL expansion bids were due and have patiently celebrated “nothing with the potential for something” since Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena was approved by council in 2012.

Somehow, despite all this history, everybody involved likes to pretend that nothing is not an option and seems surprised when it even gets brought up.

There is an assumption by Hansen’s supporters that, if Sodo isn’t considered, the OVG deal is “guaranteed” and the city will have to “settle” for a “lesser” deal. If efforts to stall OVG’s proposal are successful, it is taken for granted that the rejection of OVG equals acceptance of Sodo.

One way or another we get something, right?

Today was a great example of how the deck can shuffle and leave even the best laid plans in disarray. Anyone who thinks a plan is guaranteed needs to step back and look at history, realizing that every one of these deals is hard, with obstacles coming out of nowhere that have, to date, prevented anyone from achieving victory.

What happens if OVG gets put on hold for further review but Sodo never regains its mojo?

With Mayor Murray’s resignation, it is expected that Council President Bruce Harrell will choose not to give up his seat on City Council and instead pass that title of interim mayor on to his colleague, council member Tim Burgess. The council will likely choose not to replace Burgess and instead operate with 8 members until the race between Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant is certified. At that time, in November, the victor of that council race and the mayoral election will be appointed early to their respective positions.

Both Harrell and Burgess have been strong arena proponents who were expected to support either Sodo or KeyArena renovations. One of those votes is now gone and a majority of 5 will have to be assembled among the remaining 8 members. If Jon Grant wins the race he will almost certainly be a no vote on Sodo and likely oppose or demand more from OVG. His election could effectively prevent Sodo from even being heard for 4 or more years.

If Council does approve of the OVG proposal, it was expected to pass back to the mayor’s office where it would, of course, be signed into law by the mayor who originated the plan. The ability to have this deal signed and sealed before any new elected officials take office has been one of the proposal’s strongest assets. Doing so establishes a timeline that can satisfy the NHL and guarantees us SOMETHING.

Now, that decision likely passes to a new mayor to be decided in the upcoming election. Will Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon honor the councils wishes and sign the legislation as is? Will this become a heated election issue with each candidate choosing a side? Will they be “generally supportive” but want to postpone things and take some time to “put their own mark on it?”

These are some of the scenarios where we wind up with nothing:

  • If Key vs Sodo becomes a divisive election issue and the wrong candidate wins, this could be over and we get nothing.
  • If Jon Grant wins and 5 votes cannot be compiled among his peers, then this could be over and we get nothing.

I don’t think Grant will win and it is unlikely that either mayoral candidate wants to start their tenure by picking a controversial fight with council by rejecting their plan, but it could happen.

If not those scenarios then, as we saw today, something completely out of the blue and unexpected could happen and leave us alone at the alter yet again. I know it can go wrong because I’ve been there before.

A big reason that I have chosen to be supportive of OVG (but not oppose Sodo) is the promise of walking away with something this year. People involved in this effort deserve the celebration and should not have to wait 8 years for an opening night party. There has to be an option that gives us SOMETHING sooner than that.

We can disagree about options but we should all agree that we deserve to have something approved and real sometime in the near future. Don’t think for a minute that we can’t be left with nothing one more time. It’s happened before (every time!) and could happen again.