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Seattle Rejects Street Closure — And New Arena in Process

New Seattle Arena

The Seattle City Council narrowly rejected a plan to sell part of a city street to developer Chris Hansen, effectively killing a proposed new NBA/NHL arena in the city’s Sodo area.

The 5-4 vote concerned the sale of a section to Occidental Avenue South to Hansen, who would have used the area as part of the footprint of a new arena for a revival of the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics. The closing of the street would certainly have increased congestion in the already-busy Sodo area — a closing opposed by the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks — and while the scope of the vote was small, it was effectively a referendum on the future of the area and the role of the nearby deep-water port in the Seattle economy.

So the 5-4 vote shelves the arena proposal for now. Even before the vote, Hansen was running out of time to pull off the new arena: a Memorandum of Understanding for the new arena between Hansen, the city and King County (which includes $200 million in public bonding) runs through November 2017, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t foresee talk of expansion until the next collective-bargaining agreement is finalized, which probably won’t happen next year. So the timing is already bad, and Hansen says (via he’ll continue his efforts:

Today’s City Council vote was disappointing but we don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We know all the fans who have stood solidly by us these past years share our disappointment but it is important that we all stay focused on our shared goal.

We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council’s concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted.

What comes next for NBA/NHL fans? It looks like the next step is turning back to KeyArena — yes, the old Seattle Coliseum — as a potential home. There are a lot of thing to like about KeyArena (the history, the Seattle Center location) but there is one big drawback: it’s a limited facility that crams people into a small space sans the public entertainment spaces fans expect at a high-end arena. But it’s possible, per the Seattle Times:

[Councilmember Sally] Bagshaw said those options should now include the city’s taking a more serious look at renovating KeyArena up to NBA and NHL standards. A report last year by the AECOM global architectural firm indicated that could be done for $285 million.

“We can do a cost-benefit analysis,’’ she said. “We can look to see if it can work. We can look to our partners and say ‘Is this something that you want to do?’ And we’re going to have to point to the Port and ask them to help. They were making a lot of noise about ‘We want our Port to survive’ and all of us want that. So, we’ll see what we can do together.’’

The bottom line: bringing the NBA and NHL to Seattle will be a much more complicated process than anticipated. But it doesn’t sound like Seattle politicos are against the idea of spending money on an arena — they just didn’t like Chris Hansen’s proposal.

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