Even as developer Chris Hansen purchases more properties in Sodo, some are wondering if the future of the NBA in Seattle is tied to the Key Arena site.
Despite a vote this May that stalled his latest efforts to construct a new arena in Seattle, Hansen continues to purchase land in Sodo. As we noted yesterday, Hansen has just acquired a lot south of Safeco Field for $25 million, meaning that his total investment in Sodo is now in excess of $120 million.
The problem with Sodo, however, is traffic concerns, which would be further inflamed by the arena vacating Occidential Avenue South . A future Lander Street bridge project could offset some previous reservations expressed by Seattle officials, but it remains to be seen if that will come to fruition in a timely fashion and ultimately alleviate the loss of a road in an already-busy section of Seattle.
An alternative to all of this could be the site of Key Arena, the former home of the Seattle Supersonics. A return to the NBA’s previous home at Seattle Center could prove to be an enticing alternative, particularly if a plan to raze the current structure and build a new venue could come to fruition. However, there are some complicated variables in the proposal to move back to Seattle Center. More from KIRO 7:
• The existing Key Arena plot likely can’t be sold to a developer. No city official at this time has said he or she is willing to wade into the political buzz saw of proposing to sell off a section of Seattle Center to a private developer. So it would have to be a partnership with the city. And the limits to that sort of partnership, in part, helped prompt the sale of the Sonics in 2006.
• For as cool as the NBA’s enthusiasm is for Seattle, it is even frostier about The Key.
• New arena traffic would be compounded by Expedia and its 3,000 employees who are moving in 1.8 miles away in 2019.
The underlying issue for any plan in Seattle is timing. Under the terms of his memorandum of understanding, which calls for $200 million in funding from Seattle and King County, Hansen must have a franchise in place by November 2017.
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