A Chris Hansen-led group continues to lobby Seattle officials to grant necessary approvals for a new Sodo arena, contending that it could entice the NBA.
Hansen has sought for years to build an arena in the city’s Sodo neighborhood, with the venue intended to lure Seattle its first NBA franchise since the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. His previous proposal stalled in May 2016, when the Seattle City Council rejected his request to vacate a section of South Occidential Avenue for the arena’s construction. Hansen has since sought to revive discussions surrounding Sodo, but the idea has effectively sat in limbo as Seattle officials move forward with the Oak View Group’s plan to privately finance an $850 million overhaul of KeyArena that will result in a venue built to modern NBA and NHL standards.
The proposal for Sodo, however, remains viable in Hansen’s mind, for reasons that he explained in a letter last week to Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and the city council. While an NHL expansion franchise is slated to begin play at the overhauled KeyArena in 2021, there is no such guarantee of an NBA team. Hansen believes that having a separate arena for basketball would make Seattle more enticing to the NBA, and boost the city’s odds of landing a team. As part of its proposal, Hansen and his group would privately finance the arena and agree to only begin construction once an NBA franchise has been obtained. More from Komonews.com:
“The intent of this application is to make possible a shovel-ready arena project to put Seattle in the best possible position to attract an NBA team,” Hansen wrote in the letter.
Hansen said he has addressed concerns in the deal since their original proposal was rejected in 2016, including: promising no area will be built unless Seattle officially has an NBA team in hand, the arena is now 100 percent privately funded with no taxpayer dollars used, and $1.3 million for improved freight mobility in conjunction with the recently approved Lander Street Overpass. The proposal also tries to allay scheduling fears of too many events in the same place with its proximity to T-Mobile Park and CenturyLink Field by stating with just an NBA team there, avoiding scheduling conflicts would be easier.
Hansen’s group also said the arena would provide “an insurance policy” for the city should an NBA team balk at playing at the renovated Seattle Center Arena. They cited a recent ESPN article stating that Seattle might need to have a second new arena with the Sonics as a main tenant if they’re to beat out other markets wanting an NBA franchise.
“Having both Seattle Center and SoDo as viable options for potential NBA owners would send a powerful message to the NBA, that not only is Seattle the best available market, but we also understand what an NBA team requires to be successful,” Hansen wrote.
For Hansen, the argument for the city to consider allowing a new Sodo arena is that a shared NBA-NHL facility might not be a viable economic option in the NBA’s eyes. However, a few unknowns remain as it relates to Seattle. The NBA has not announced formal plans to expand beyond 30 teams and has no apparent relocation candidates among its current slate of clubs, making the path for Seattle to land a team a little bit more uncertain. It would also have to be determined whether there is an appetite among Seattle officials for green lighting the construction of a second major sports arena, especially given that officials have historically expressed concerns over the Sodo project regarding traffic and the ability to coordinate event schedules with nearby venues T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) and CenturyLink Field.
Planning for the project at KeyArena is likely to be the city’s biggest sports facilities priority for now, and it stands reason that Oak View Group and the Seattle NHL expansion squad–whose ownership group is led by Boston Celtics minority owner David Bonderman–will continue to plot the venue’s construction with the NBA also in mind. Still, Hansen has not dropped his ambitions for Sodo to this point, and is willing to continue lobbying the city for its consideration.
Rendering courtesy Sonics Arena.
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