BY SPNW Staff 06:30AM 02/20/2012

Is SoDo Best Site For A Hoops/Hockey Arena?

Numerous questions need to be addressed before a basketball/hockey facility becomes a reality (if it ever does). One of the first is, is SoDo the right site?

KeyArena has been deemed unsuitable by the NBA and too small for an NHL facility. / Sportspress Northwest photo

During Thursday’s press conference, in which Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn detailed a proposal to construct a new basketball/hockey arena in the city’s SoDo district south of Safeco Field, King County Executive Dow Constantine cautioned that there is still a lot of work to be done before NBA and NHL teams relocate here.

“This is not Game Seven,” Constantine remarked. “This is the tipoff of the first game of the preseason. This is a set of principles. This is a start.”

Under the proposal outlined by McGinn, San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen would raise $290 million in private investment, while the city and county would commit a maximum of $200 million through the sale of construction bonds. The plan  hinges on no new taxes as well as the stipulation that the private operators — not taxpayers — are obligated to make up for any revenue shortfalls that pay off the construction debt.

Although an 11-member Arena Advisory Panel appointed by McGinn will have to carefully inspect the financing plan, as well as weigh the impact that a third sports facility would have on SoDo, many commenters, on Sportspress Northwest and elsewhere, have already adopted the view that this is a deal too good to pass up.

The following summarizes the essence of the many comments we have read over the past few days:

“This is one hell of a deal (Chris) Hansen is offering. If this all comes to fruition, Seattle’s new arena will be funded by more private money than every NBA arena but New York’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Seattle would end up with a publicly owned arena that costs taxpayers nothing. Just get this deal done!”

Of course, it’s not nearly that simple, as the history of the Seattle Coliseum rebuild into KeyArena demonstrated in the early 1990s (which we will delve into in a subsequent post), evidenced by the concerns/alarms that have already been offered by some City Council members, the King County Labor Council and Port of Seattle.

David Freiboth, executive director of the King County Labor Council, said late last week that freight mobility and congestion around CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field on game days are already significant problems for maritime and manufacturing industries, suggesting that the addition of a basketball/hockey arena to the neighborhood would seriously impact the capability of the Port of Seattle and other businesses along the waterfront.

City Councilwoman Jean Godden took several hits from fans last week when she brought up the issue of “overlapping seasons,” and the effects they might have on traffic and congestion in SoDo. Numerous fans blistered her for failing to understand that only in April, May and part of June would overlapping MLB, NBA and NHL seasons become an issue.

What Godden’s critics failed to take into account are the numerous non-game events that would probably be booked around the calendar into a new arena, or how the probable loss of many of those events to a new facility would impact city-owned KeyArena.

This is why, as Constantine pointed out, the process of determining the viability of a new arena, enticing at it looks at first glance, requires considerable study. Not only must taxpayers be protected, but existing SoDo businesses as well.

Because hedge-fund manager Hansen already owns property in SoDo, it’s assumed that’s where a new arena would have to be constructed. But is SoDo the ideal location? Is it your preferred choice? We ask that you respond to our poll, with comments, so that we can all get a better sense of public/fan sentiment on this aspect of the arena issue.

[poll id="58"]


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    And what about the Sounders, who draw over 36,000 a game, more than the Mariners and more than an NHL or NBA would bring in?  Gotta factor them in, too.  The sports fans slobbering over having two winter teams in Seattle (because Seattle just ISN’T a major city without them, you know?) are about as concerned over traffic jams that overlapping game dates would create as the Occupy protesters or Critical Mass bicyclists are about any inconvenience they cause people for the same reason: it’s all about them and what they want.

  • RadioGuy

    And what about the Sounders, who draw over 36,000 a game, more than the Mariners and more than an NHL or NBA would bring in?  Gotta factor them in, too.  The sports fans slobbering over having two winter teams in Seattle (because Seattle just ISN’T a major city without them, you know?) are about as concerned over traffic jams that overlapping game dates would create as the Occupy protesters or Critical Mass bicyclists are about any inconvenience they cause people for the same reason: it’s all about them and what they want.

  • Grover

    First of all, the proposed deal only applies to the City of Seattle, and King County since it is only the Mayor of Seattle and Dow Constantine who are supporting it.  So, the current proposal would not even apply to Bellevue or Tacoma, who would have to agree to sell construction bonds, instead of Seattle selling them.

    Secondly, rebuilding KeyArena is an intriguing possibility.  Ballmer had a plan for KeyArena which was going to cost about $300 million — the exact amount the private investors are offering for the SODO plan.  If they would be willing to put that $300 million of private money into rebuilding KeyArena, then zero public money would be needed.  I am not sure that the Ballmer plan would allow KeyArena to be suitable for NHL or not, but I expect that would be possible.

    I disagree with the characterization of the public reaction to the current proposal.  I think the public is against this proposal, and likely bay a large margin.  There is going to be at least one poll on this coming out soon (if it is not already out this morning) which should give us a preliminary idea of how the public is reacting.  The comments this website gets are predominantly from sports fans, who would most likely favor a new arena, even with $450 million in public funds going into it (the debt service on $200 million construction bonds is about $15 million per year for 30 years, or $450 million).  The general pulbic, however, probably is against this plan.  I certainly oppose any public money going into a new sports arena in Seattle.

    I think a $300 million private rebuild of KeyArena with ZERO public investment would get overwhelming support from the public.  Any public investment at all in a new sports arena is going to be a hard sell.

  • Grover

    First of all, the proposed deal only applies to the City of Seattle, and King County since it is only the Mayor of Seattle and Dow Constantine who are supporting it.  So, the current proposal would not even apply to Bellevue or Tacoma, who would have to agree to sell construction bonds, instead of Seattle selling them.

    Secondly, rebuilding KeyArena is an intriguing possibility.  Ballmer had a plan for KeyArena which was going to cost about $300 million — the exact amount the private investors are offering for the SODO plan.  If they would be willing to put that $300 million of private money into rebuilding KeyArena, then zero public money would be needed.  I am not sure that the Ballmer plan would allow KeyArena to be suitable for NHL or not, but I expect that would be possible.

    I disagree with the characterization of the public reaction to the current proposal.  I think the public is against this proposal, and likely bay a large margin.  There is going to be at least one poll on this coming out soon (if it is not already out this morning) which should give us a preliminary idea of how the public is reacting.  The comments this website gets are predominantly from sports fans, who would most likely favor a new arena, even with $450 million in public funds going into it (the debt service on $200 million construction bonds is about $15 million per year for 30 years, or $450 million).  The general pulbic, however, probably is against this plan.  I certainly oppose any public money going into a new sports arena in Seattle.

    I think a $300 million private rebuild of KeyArena with ZERO public investment would get overwhelming support from the public.  Any public investment at all in a new sports arena is going to be a hard sell.

  • thekellygreenandwhite

    Would love to see an arena built at the Seattle Center.

  • thekellygreenandwhite

    Would love to see an arena built at the Seattle Center.

  • Jamo57

    Hey guys,

    On Hockey Night In Canada’s broadcast on Saturday night, the second game of the doubleheader was Calgary @ the LA Kings at the Staple Center.   One of the things the CBC announcers really focused on was how heavilly used the arena was.   The previous Sunday it hosted the Grammies.  Then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening it hosted hockey or basketball (the Clippers Saturday afternoon and the Kings Saturday night).   I would love to see an article about how the LA Live area came to be, how it was funded (California has worse funding problems than we do), and how they make it work (or don’t make it work).   Maybe you can look at that if you are down at Staples during the Pac-12 tourney?

  • Jamo57

    Hey guys,

    On Hockey Night In Canada’s broadcast on Saturday night, the second game of the doubleheader was Calgary @ the LA Kings at the Staple Center.   One of the things the CBC announcers really focused on was how heavilly used the arena was.   The previous Sunday it hosted the Grammies.  Then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening it hosted hockey or basketball (the Clippers Saturday afternoon and the Kings Saturday night).   I would love to see an article about how the LA Live area came to be, how it was funded (California has worse funding problems than we do), and how they make it work (or don’t make it work).   Maybe you can look at that if you are down at Staples during the Pac-12 tourney?

  • http://www.facebook.com/erik.berge Erik Berge

    I like Seattle Center as the second option. Tear out Memorial Stadium and put in another garage there then build a new Arena on the ground around and on where the Key sits. Would probably have to use the Tacoma Dome or something as a temp but nothing that hasnt been done before. 

  • Jamo57

    Can I suggest one other poll too?

    Would Seattle be capable of pulling off a World’s Fair in 2012?

  • http://www.facebook.com/erik.berge Erik Berge

    I like Seattle Center as the second option. Tear out Memorial Stadium and put in another garage there then build a new Arena on the ground around and on where the Key sits. Would probably have to use the Tacoma Dome or something as a temp but nothing that hasnt been done before. 

  • Jamo57

    Can I suggest one other poll too?

    Would Seattle be capable of pulling off a World’s Fair in 2012?

  • KSJ

    Anything but a vote.

  • KSJ

    Anything but a vote.

  • petermag

    SODO would be a gigantic mistake. Traffic will be a nightmare and the suburban taxpayer will have to foot the bill in order to redo I-5 in the long run. 

    Bellevue is the best area for the region.  The city cannot support 5 pro teams without suburban support.  Placing all of the teams next to each other, would benefit the city not the region as it would make the city commute even longer.

    SODO is a good short-term idea with terrible long-term problems.  Bellevue spreads out the region and allows sportsfans to arrive from all 4 directions.  The arena should be in Bellevue.

  • petermag

    SODO would be a gigantic mistake. Traffic will be a nightmare and the suburban taxpayer will have to foot the bill in order to redo I-5 in the long run. 

    Bellevue is the best area for the region.  The city cannot support 5 pro teams without suburban support.  Placing all of the teams next to each other, would benefit the city not the region as it would make the city commute even longer.

    SODO is a good short-term idea with terrible long-term problems.  Bellevue spreads out the region and allows sportsfans to arrive from all 4 directions.  The arena should be in Bellevue.

  • Orogenic

    This is mostly political blather. Truth is the best place for the new arena is within the Stadium District, exactly where Hansen proposed. Any denying these facts is ridiculous. The local freight industry, loves to reject such new development as abstract, when in fact they have completed exactly zero development in that area in at least a decade. I am sick of the Port of Seattle claiming there are thousands of jobs at stake, when literally thousands of jobs are held up by the consistent and perennial traffic that is held up by the semi’s that sit on the lower bridge everyday (and freight that block the lower bridge). How about the port becomes efficient enough to handle their freight and then come to the table with some sort of equilibrium? Seriously, the port of Seattle needs reality check, if they consider themselves an efficient means of getting heavy freight traffic, which I agree is very important to our economy. Like I have said before, and will say again: the freight industry in our area is in need of an overhaul and/or bypass of the local transportation routes. Our recent construction projects have reiterated and compounded these. Art, you also live in West Seattle, the Port needs to recognize the importance of culture as well as commerce. There is no better place for a public facility than the stadium district, but many parties need a wake up call.

  • Orogenic

    This is mostly political blather. Truth is the best place for the new arena is within the Stadium District, exactly where Hansen proposed. Any denying these facts is ridiculous. The local freight industry, loves to reject such new development as abstract, when in fact they have completed exactly zero development in that area in at least a decade. I am sick of the Port of Seattle claiming there are thousands of jobs at stake, when literally thousands of jobs are held up by the consistent and perennial traffic that is held up by the semi’s that sit on the lower bridge everyday (and freight that block the lower bridge). How about the port becomes efficient enough to handle their freight and then come to the table with some sort of equilibrium? Seriously, the port of Seattle needs reality check, if they consider themselves an efficient means of getting heavy freight traffic, which I agree is very important to our economy. Like I have said before, and will say again: the freight industry in our area is in need of an overhaul and/or bypass of the local transportation routes. Our recent construction projects have reiterated and compounded these. Art, you also live in West Seattle, the Port needs to recognize the importance of culture as well as commerce. There is no better place for a public facility than the stadium district, but many parties need a wake up call.

  • Matt

    I like SoDo, but prefer (as if I have a choice) the Metro bus yard east of Safeco.  If that were an option, it wouldn’t be in the way of the Port as much, have light rail/bus access right out the front doors, easy access to the freeways while also using the Safeco, CLink and current Metro garages.

    Outside SoDo, for those South King County folks, I like a renovated T-Dome.  Good freeway access, at least for those in Pierce and S. King County, some intercounty mass transit options, parking lots that could be further developed for retail/entertainment/hotels and a building that should be able to be developed for less than the cost of a new arena.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s out of the reach of Seattle/King County politicians.

  • Matt

    I like SoDo, but prefer (as if I have a choice) the Metro bus yard east of Safeco.  If that were an option, it wouldn’t be in the way of the Port as much, have light rail/bus access right out the front doors, easy access to the freeways while also using the Safeco, CLink and current Metro garages.

    Outside SoDo, for those South King County folks, I like a renovated T-Dome.  Good freeway access, at least for those in Pierce and S. King County, some intercounty mass transit options, parking lots that could be further developed for retail/entertainment/hotels and a building that should be able to be developed for less than the cost of a new arena.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s out of the reach of Seattle/King County politicians.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PYBT3CLELRYCQVBCMRKLYALXJE jerry.

    Have people forgotten the horrific traffic getting to and from the key?  If you made it by tip off, you were lucky.  We were just up there to eat, and the drive from the exit took us 25 min.  ON a normal saturday night.  Come on.  Really?
    While everyone wants Bellevue, nobody is selling the land to build a stadium.  And Hansen owned the land in Sodo.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PYBT3CLELRYCQVBCMRKLYALXJE jerry.

    Have people forgotten the horrific traffic getting to and from the key?  If you made it by tip off, you were lucky.  We were just up there to eat, and the drive from the exit took us 25 min.  ON a normal saturday night.  Come on.  Really?
    While everyone wants Bellevue, nobody is selling the land to build a stadium.  And Hansen owned the land in Sodo.

  • jafabian

    Key Arena is the better location.  It worked for decades and worked quite well.  Putting a new arena in the SODO district would create a traffic nightmare and possibly would have to require improvements or changes in the roadways.  Since the Mercer area is already being redone a commitment to the Key wouldn’t change much that’s already in place and would split traffic across the city rather having it all in one place.   I agree with Jean Godden about seasons overlapping possibily being a problem.  Sure, it’s only for 3-4 months of the year where it would be a problem but why not go for all a traffic free year?

    Plus the Seattle Center is dying.  The city has been scrambling to find ways to save it and closing down the Fun Forest isn’t helping.  Bringing back the NBA and bringing in the NHL would be a big step in reinvigorating it.  A SODO arena would be the final nail in the coffin for it.  And I’m not thrilled about Key Arena becoming an albatross on the city the way the Charlotte Coliseum and Miami Arena did for their cities when replaced with new arenas that has more luxury box suites.

    But I really don’t see the NBA coming back anytime soon.  But I do see the NHL coming here at some point and I’d like to see that in a revamped Key Arena.  The pro sports leagues are calling too many shots on this.  Just because they have a formula that works in NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas and Miami doesn’t mean it will work in Puget Sound.  It’s time to stop doing what works for them and start doing things that works for Seattle.

  • jafabian

    Key Arena is the better location.  It worked for decades and worked quite well.  Putting a new arena in the SODO district would create a traffic nightmare and possibly would have to require improvements or changes in the roadways.  Since the Mercer area is already being redone a commitment to the Key wouldn’t change much that’s already in place and would split traffic across the city rather having it all in one place.   I agree with Jean Godden about seasons overlapping possibily being a problem.  Sure, it’s only for 3-4 months of the year where it would be a problem but why not go for all a traffic free year?

    Plus the Seattle Center is dying.  The city has been scrambling to find ways to save it and closing down the Fun Forest isn’t helping.  Bringing back the NBA and bringing in the NHL would be a big step in reinvigorating it.  A SODO arena would be the final nail in the coffin for it.  And I’m not thrilled about Key Arena becoming an albatross on the city the way the Charlotte Coliseum and Miami Arena did for their cities when replaced with new arenas that has more luxury box suites.

    But I really don’t see the NBA coming back anytime soon.  But I do see the NHL coming here at some point and I’d like to see that in a revamped Key Arena.  The pro sports leagues are calling too many shots on this.  Just because they have a formula that works in NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas and Miami doesn’t mean it will work in Puget Sound.  It’s time to stop doing what works for them and start doing things that works for Seattle.

  • Pixeldawg13

    My answer to the above question is simple: SODO is the best place since that’s where Chris Hanson bought land for it.  QED.

  • Pixeldawg13

    My answer to the above question is simple: SODO is the best place since that’s where Chris Hanson bought land for it.  QED.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NC2F6WTDPHDPIH2BUFNCWCUGSE Mark

    Let’s see. In Sodo you have the Link light rail, the Sounder commuter rail, Amtrak and connections to I-90 and I-5. Seattle Center just has SR-99 (which was the main freeway during the 1962 World’s Fair) and the monorail.

    I think Sodo is better equipped to handle traffic.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NC2F6WTDPHDPIH2BUFNCWCUGSE Mark

    Let’s see. In Sodo you have the Link light rail, the Sounder commuter rail, Amtrak and connections to I-90 and I-5. Seattle Center just has SR-99 (which was the main freeway during the 1962 World’s Fair) and the monorail.

    I think Sodo is better equipped to handle traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/Bham_Insider Bellingham Insider

    Hey Seattle, how does Boston and NY function?
    Talk about traffic downtown!
    Relax.  There are connectors / bridges / over passes etc. that can be built. I am sure this city is capable of figuring things out. SODO will thrive!

  • http://twitter.com/Bham_Insider Bellingham Insider

    Hey Seattle, how does Boston and NY function?
    Talk about traffic downtown!
    Relax.  There are connectors / bridges / over passes etc. that can be built. I am sure this city is capable of figuring things out. SODO will thrive!