We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #1: Seattle’s City Council approves a $600 million renovation for KeyArena.
KeyArena has hosted two NBA Finals, an NBA All-Star Game, and numerous NCAA Tournament classics — but the last NBA game played in the facility was in 2008 and an NHL game has never been played in the arena. 2017 saw important steps taken toward changing both of these.
In August KeyArena’s hyperbolic paraboloid roofline, designed by Paul Thiry, was deemed architecturally significant by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. The arena itself was given landmark status, with its roof, exterior walls and trusses designated as history.
While the designation may not have been necessary to show the way for a renovation of the arena, it did carry great weight. Various renovation ideas had been put forth to revitalize the facility, and it was time that a choice was made. Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, responded to a request for proposals (RFP) on KeyArena, offering a proposed privately-financed renovation to bring the arena up to NBA and NHL standards. Another response came from Seattle Partners–which consisted of AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties–and called for a $521 million renovation as part of a financing package that included a request for $250 million in public bonding from the city, with Seattle Partners guaranteeing full repayment of the bonds. However, that proposal was withdrawn just days before Seattle announced that it would proceed with negotiations with Oak View Group.
Months after that announcement, Chris Hansen came forward with a proposal to turn KeyArena into a multi-venue site comprising of a concert and amphitheater, with a new basketball arena constructed in the Sodo neighborhood. That proposal did not change the course of KeyArena’s future, however, and Seattle continued to consider the proposal from Oak View Group.
Hansen’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from the city expired December 3. The next day, the City Council approved an MOU by a 7-1 vote to give Oak View Group its blessing to move forward. Reported King5, “OVG has claimed it can begin construction next year and open the building by October of 2020…. There is widespread belief inside Seattle City Hall that Oak View will now make a serious pitch for the NHL to be an anchor tenant in the new building.”
On December 6th, accompanied by Oak View Group co-founder Tim Leiweke, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the MOU. Tweeted Durkan afterward, “Today’s agreement is the best path forward to bring back our Sonics, recruit a NHL, make Seattle a world-class music city and drive investment in the future of Seattle Center.”
The return of KeyArena is our number one Arena Digest story of the year — and it may well be our number one again in the coming years, approaching the October 2020 re-opening.
Renderings courtesy Oak View Group
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List:
#2: The Opening of Little Caesars Arena
#3: Vivint Smart Home Arena Renovations
#4: Target Center Upgrades
#5: New York Islanders Win Belmont Park Bid
#6: Philips Arena Renovations Begin
#7: Calgary Flames’ Arena Pursuit Stalls
#8: Carolina Hurricanes Move Closer to Sale
#9: NBA G League Continues to Grow
#10: Colorado Eagles to Join AHL