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RFP Kickstarts KeyArena Renovation Bids

Washington State Pavilion

Now that the City of Seattle has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a KeyArena overhaul, details are emerging about how the plan could take shape.

Issued on Wednesday, the RFP calls on upgrades to KeyArena to be privately financed. Any agreement will allow the city to retain ownership of the venue, with the developer taking on maintenance, operations, and rent. In exchange, the developer will be given the naming rights along with other arena-related revenue streams such as major sponsorships and ticket sales.

One unresolved issue is the exact scope of the project. For now, the possibility exists that KeyArena–which originally opened in 1962 and received its last major renovation in 1995–could be completely demolished, with a new arena constructed on the site. However, Seattle officials are warning that a historical designation could eliminate that possibility, thus encouraging bidders to carefully consider a renovation. More from The Seattle Times:

It’s possible, though unlikely, the 55-year-old arena could avoid historical-preservation status and be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. More likely, as the proposal indicates, developers should assume they must renovate the structure within the confines of its existing spine and iconic roof.

Those submitting proposals, due April 12, must include a renovation plan within the existing structure but also can submit a full demolition and rebuild plan in case that option becomes available.

The city says it expects to have a clear picture on the historical status of the building by the second quarter of 2017.

All proposals must include plans to deal with transportation, parking and traffic issues and minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

While it take months to figure out which firm could land the project, signs of a competitive bidding process are already taking shape. Both AEG and the Oak View Group have expressed in the project since last year, with the firms expected to submit proposals that would modernize KeyArena. Any project could enhance the arena to meet modern standards for both the NBA and NHL, but the firms are indicating that a renovation could enhance the arena’s ability to host other events and could begin before a franchise in either league commits to Seattle.

Oak View Group made a series of moves toward the end of the year that signaled their interest in the project. Lance Lopes, whose past experience includes a stint as general counsel for the Seattle Seahawks, was brought in to work with Oak View on the plan, while ICON was tapped to handle the proposal’s design.

AEG, meanwhile, say its is looking to bring KeyArena to modern standards for both sports and entertainment. AEG president Bob Newman recently indicated that the firm believes that the project can be easily tailored to meet the needs of the NBA and/or NHL. More from the Seattle Times:

And he says the time frame for that construction can be bumped ahead should any teams be made available by either the NBA or NHL. The NBA is expected to open an expansion process within the next year.

“Any construction project can be driven by a deadline,” he said. “If all of a sudden there was a deadline given by a league to get a team by a certain date, then you adjust your construction mindset to achieve that.”

Newman says AEG is prepared to meet the city’s criteria and added that the arena’s current size and footprint won’t hinder plans for a venue of roughly 17,000 seats for NBA or NHL.

“There have been dramatic improvements in our industry in the design and construction of stadiums,” he said. “There are things being done today that weren’t done 10 years ago.”

It is worth noting that this is not the only arena proposal in Seattle, as Chris Hansen continues to push a new arena in the city’s SODO neighborhood. Last May, the Seattle City Council rejected Hansen’s proposal at the site–citing traffic concerns, and other issues–but Hansen has revived the plan by offering to privately finance the arena.

However, Seattle has not rendered a decision on Hansen’s offer and is clearly leaving its options open for the coming months.

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