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KeyArena Renovation to be Considered Before Sodo Proposal

Washington State Pavilion

Seattle officials are confirming that a proposal for a new arena in Sodo will only be considered after the city has vetted its options with a KeyArena renovation.

The debate over how Seattle should proceed with its arena project took a new turn earlier this week, when developer Chris Hansen presented his revived Sodo bid. Though Hansen is pledging to construct the arena with private funding, he is still requesting to vacate a section of South Occidental Avenue. A similar plan was narrowly rejected by the Seattle City Council last May, with some councilmembers expressing concerns that the elimination of the street would lead to traffic problems and negatively affect Port of Seattle operations.

One major development since Hansen’s proposal was voted down is the emergence of a KeyArena renovation as a viable competitor. Seattle has already issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the renovation, and AEG and the Oak View Group are expected to finalize their bids by the April 12 deadline.

The city is expected to make a decision on a KeyArena renovation in June. Mayor Ed Murray has confirmed that he wants to continue vetting the proposals. More from the Yakima Herald:

A statement by Murray on Wednesday night said he was moving ahead with the KeyArena process regardless of the new Sodo proposal.

“Over the last four years, the SoDo arena group and the City have worked to determine whether SoDo would be the best place to build a new NBA and NHL arena,” Murray said. “Given the continued uncertainty of when the SoDo group can secure a team and with multiple partners with strong ties to the NBA and NHL interested in the renovation of KeyArena without requiring a team, the City will continue the RFP process to evaluate KeyArena as an option to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. City Council will determine the path forward on the proposed street vacation in SoDo, while we continue to look at all the options, including the SoDo arena, and consider what is best for the public and what will bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.”

The city council would have to sign off on any potential deal with KeyArena developers, meaning it could have to pick between the two projects late this year. But if the council was generally in favor of a KeyArena proposal formalized this summer, it could render moot any new vote on the Sodo project.

For the KeyArena project, a few questions will likely remain unanswered for now. While the project will be privately financed, the exact cost will still have to be determined, as will some traffic plans for the venue and surrounding development. Furthermore, there is also the question of which is the most realistic path to obtaining an NBA and/or NHL franchise, and how quickly either league can commit to Seattle.

The review of Hansen’s proposal is expected to extend beyond the timeline for deciding on the KeyArena project. City agencies will be tasked with vetting Hansen’s petition, a process that must be completed before it can go to a vote.

Correction: This original version of this story incorrectly stated that Ed Murray said that the city council would not vote on Sodo until after he had vetted the KeyArena project. 

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