BY Art Thiel 06:35PM 06/20/2012

Thiel: A few things about process, and KeyArena

Following King County Tuesday, Chris Hansen was quizzed by City Council Wednesday. One thing needs to be dropped from the agenda: KeyArena, for anything other than temp home.

Since we’re early in a process of several years that it will take to build and populate a basketball/hockey arena, I’d like to offer up some naive ideas to the involved parties to streamline the process and make it a tad less unpleasant.

I say this having sat through two King County hearings Tuesday and one City Council hearing Wednesday, so I may be a little agitated and loopy. Nevertheless:

1) Opponents and proponents, please stop the polarizing rhetoric. You’re starting to sound like Democrats and Republicans. Passion is one thing; ignorant belligerence is another. While I’m at it, please stop with the whiny impatience. Compared to any other stadium deal in the city’s modern history, Chris Hansen’s project is on a missile. Every step is important to get it right, otherwise the project comes undone down the road. I’d ask the Kingdome for an amen, but it died at 24 from human foolishness when it was a concrete zygote.

2) Make the Port of Seattle as rigorous in its presentation of supporting facts as the councils are demanding of Hansen (thank you, Brian Robinson of Save Our Sonics for the suggestion). If the port’s claim of job losses of 3,000 to 4,000 is attributable to a basketball arena, we should seek the port’s designation as a federal SuperFund site to clean up management so bad, it’s toxic.

3) If Chris Hansen will stop claiming that San Francisco’s baseball park on industrial property is analogous to the Seattle situation (it really isn’t), then the councils should agree to stop nagging him to fund the entirety of the project as did Giants ownership (San Francisco is a much bigger, richer market to sell tickets, suites and sponsorships; besides, the Giants are cool).

4) The most important point in the early going: Let’s put to rest the idea of KeyArena as a long-term  solution. Gawdblessher, Grandma gave us all she had. Let her rest.

KeyArena came up a lot Wednesday when the city council had a chance to quiz Hansen in public. As chancellors of the city’s dwindling exchequer, the city is trying to make relevant a dwindling structure that, while it has no debt thanks to $45 million settlement from Clay Bennett, has insufficient revenues for maintenance and improvements.

It does have value to Hansen, because upon acquisition of an NBA team, he will need the Key as an interim home for up to three years while an arena is built. He said after the hearing Wednesday that he will commit at least $5 million, independent of the $290 million for the new arena, for upgrades.

It’s part of one of three options Hansen has proposed, but does not insist upon, because he wants council cooperation in the determination of the Key’s fate. Besides needing a temp home, Hansen wants one more thing: the Key in the future must be made noncompetitive with his arena. He doesn’t want to fight with a joint in the same town for concerts and other non-sports events. That’s reasonable.

For months before news broke on Hansen’s plan, his crew looked at alternatives to SoDo, including the Key. It has two big drawbacks known to all who have cared: An NHL rink and seats can’t fit in the building’s current configuration, and it sits upon what amounts to a public park — the only one of its kind in the NBA. A complete teardown would be required, an excavation done for parking and much bigger loading bays, all of which would be subject to the opinions of the hundreds of constituencies who use Seattle Center.

It would not get done in the lifetime of Hansen’s great grandchildren. If you think the fight over SoDo is getting testy, proposing a completely new arena on Center grounds would look like fight from a “Transformers” movie.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the hearing Wednesday was the view of Robert Nellams, the Center’s director and a 16-year city employee who was asked by council to give his opinion.

“I understand why SoDo was selected,” Nellams said. “It’s hard for me to tell people that.”

Nellams doesn’t want to quit on the Key, as well as the lower Queen Anne businesses that have suffered since the Sonics’ departure. But the building, which began as a temp pavilion for the 1962 World’s Fair and wound up being a home for the NBA for 41 years, is at the end of its functional utility for pro sports.

A telling blow Wednesday came quietly. Asked about the desires of the two basketball teams who use the building, staff informed council that the Seattle Storm and Seattle University wanted to be in the new arena.

“The new arena?” council member Sally Clark asked.

“The new arena.”

It’s all unofficial, of course, but everyone in the room understood. No sports enterprise wants to be associated with yesterday. Hansen’s suggestion of $5 million for a new hairdo and make-up for the old girl suddenly sounded all right.

“It’s far better to be in partnership with Hansen” than to become a white elephant, Nellams said.


YourThoughts

  • Jamo57

    ‘Opponents and proponents, please stop the polarizing rhetoric.’    Who?  Moi?   LOL.

    Thanks for the perspective, Art.   BTW, this is the first column from you that remotely touches on a past column you made that I sort of thought was too far out of the box to work, but then looking at it in a different way made better sense.    That being the idea of using Vancouver BC as a temporary home for an NBA team.  

    I still don’t think that would work as I think Vancouver would not look too kindly at being a surrogate mother for us.   But……..if an NHL team came available first and an ownership group (such as Don Levin) wanted to buy it and put it in Seattle, then using Rogers Arena as a temporary home makes a lot of sense.

    There was a study done by the University of Toronto that was released about a year ago that said the health of the league would be better served by doubling up in some of the bigger Canadian markets rather than being in the US smaller markets and Sun Belt.   Here’s one link:

    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20110412/canada-could-support-12-nhl-teams-110412/

    In any event, I don’t think the Vancouver market was too wild about a team to compete with the Canucks but they have been very supportive of a team in Seattle which would probably make it easier and cheaper for fans to get tickets and see the Canucks and reduce the travel of the team.    This scenario seems much more palatable, imho, for our friends up north and could make getting two teams a little more simultaneously for this market simpler.

    Surely putting the cart before the horse given our current debate, however as I said this is the first opportunity to not seem way too random in returning to that idea. 

    Besides, once we clear this hurdle (hopefully) then comes the difficult hurdles of acquiring a team(s).   Your previous outside the box thought makes more sense for a hockey team looking for a good northwest temporary home in a venue that would work much better than Key Arena.

    • RadioGuy

      Can’t see the Vancouver scenario happening, Jamo57.  They might have some hard feeling of their own up there for losing the Grizzlies to Memphis, the tax structure in Canada is downright stifling to businesses compared to here and I have a difficult time envisioning Vancouver fans willingly supporting a team they KNOW is moving to Seattle (especially since they already have a strong NHL team playing a winter sport that is even more a part of Canadian culture than baseball and football are to ours).  At least at Key Arena or even the Tacoma Dome, you’ll be playing in a market that would have an emotional investment the team because it’s theirs.  What good is playing in a modern facility in Vancouver if you have a hard time selling tickets there?

  • Jamo57

    ‘Opponents and proponents, please stop the polarizing rhetoric.’    Who?  Moi?   LOL.

    Thanks for the perspective, Art.   BTW, this is the first column from you that remotely touches on a past column you made that I sort of thought was too far out of the box to work, but then looking at it in a different way made better sense.    That being the idea of using Vancouver BC as a temporary home for an NBA team.  

    I still don’t think that would work as I think Vancouver would not look too kindly at being a surrogate mother for us.   But……..if an NHL team came available first and an ownership group (such as Don Levin) wanted to buy it and put it in Seattle, then using Rogers Arena as a temporary home makes a lot of sense.

    There was a study done by the University of Toronto that was released about a year ago that said the health of the league would be better served by doubling up in some of the bigger Canadian markets rather than being in the US smaller markets and Sun Belt.   Here’s one link:

    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20110412/canada-could-support-12-nhl-teams-110412/

    In any event, I don’t think the Vancouver market was too wild about a team to compete with the Canucks but they have been very supportive of a team in Seattle which would probably make it easier and cheaper for fans to get tickets and see the Canucks and reduce the travel of the team.    This scenario seems much more palatable, imho, for our friends up north and could make getting two teams a little more simultaneously for this market simpler.

    Surely putting the cart before the horse given our current debate, however as I said this is the first opportunity to not seem way too random in returning to that idea. 

    Besides, once we clear this hurdle (hopefully) then comes the difficult hurdles of acquiring a team(s).   Your previous outside the box thought makes more sense for a hockey team looking for a good northwest temporary home in a venue that would work much better than Key Arena.

    • RadioGuy

      Can’t see the Vancouver scenario happening, Jamo57.  They might have some hard feeling of their own up there for losing the Grizzlies to Memphis, the tax structure in Canada is downright stifling to businesses compared to here and I have a difficult time envisioning Vancouver fans willingly supporting a team they KNOW is moving to Seattle (especially since they already have a strong NHL team playing a winter sport that is even more a part of Canadian culture than baseball and football are to ours).  At least at Key Arena or even the Tacoma Dome, you’ll be playing in a market that would have an emotional investment the team because it’s theirs.  What good is playing in a modern facility in Vancouver if you have a hard time selling tickets there?

  • Petersteinbrueck

    All stadiums seem to be temporary homes to NBA teams because, like Key Arena, the NBA keeps upgrading their facilities demands for posh improvements, club seats, etc , while raising the cost for everyday people and families to enjoy the sport beyond the family budget. That is what mostly disheartens me.

    • Jamo57

      Peter, I must respectively say that is an overstatement and a simplification.   

       I can take the bus to and from Safeco Field from downtown Everett.  In fact, I can walk from my home to the Snohomish County building to catch the 510 and then walk from the County building back home.   I tell my friends I walk to Safeco from home and it’s virtually true.   Cost of the round trip is $7.   Much less than parking around the stadium, and no gas is used and no stress of navigating the freeways.     In addition, I also enjoy the small businesses that serve hot dogs, etc on Occidental next to the Clink rather than eat inside the stadium.   That comes to about $9.   I’m a bleacher bum by heart and played outfield so I am used to sitting and watching the game ‘backwards’, but those are also the most economical seats in the stadium.     I am fortunate in regard to living almost on an express rounte,  but I would imagine most people live within 3-5 miles of a park and ride on one of the major ST Express Routes which all seem to go to SoDo at some point.  All it takes is a little research and some trial and error.  I really prefer to ‘spread my money around’ with these events.   We go to Husky football games (season ticket holders), a few Ms games, and I can walk to the Silvertips games (without bus augmentation) here in Everett.   We don’t eat in the stadiums and consciously seek out surrounding restaurants and businesses to eat at before or after games, and try and find ones that are locally owned and operated (though with Husky games that is harder as we take the Metro shuttles into Husky Stadium from the Northgate Mall which is filled with chains).   With the Dawgs at the Clink this year it does give us an oppportunity to support more localy owned businesses are there are more to choose from in SoDo. 

      Using existing public transportation and avoiding stadium concessions is a concious choice we make and came out of the convenience UW implemented with Metro when they expanded Husky Stadium.  But it grew into supporting the ‘little guy’ as the years went by.   

      As to the renovation argument, I have seen Alderwood and Everett Malls have two major renovation and expansions done in the 25 years I have lived north of Seattle.   And each was done to make the properties more ‘upscale’ than their previous design.    I am sure the cities and the counties participated in some regards with traffic flows and the abandonment of roads or zoning modifications.    No one seemed to mind.   Ironically when I see a movie at the Alderwood multiplex, I have never heard anyone in the audience complain about how much Jack Nicholson or George Lucas was making from the film.    It seems to me sports is unfairly targeted in that regard.   (How much did U2 make touring last year, how much did the rake in at the one show at the Clink?)   No one knows or cares.

      Having said all that, I do feel nostalgia for when I could go to Dodger Stadium in HS in the 70s with $10 and pay for parking, some Dodger Dogs and a bleacher seat.    But a movie cost $1.50 too. 

      BTW, taking the Sounder to SoDo on a weekend day game enhances the game day experience tremendously. The train goes along the water for most of the route and costs about $8 round trip. I can’t remember. I simply wave my Orca card. But the scenery is wonderful!!!

    • art thiel

       Peter, indeed that is the most disheartening aspect — pricing a night out so steeply that it can be only a birthday/anniversary/Father’s Day one-off.
       On the other hand, Seattle got 46 years out of a temp building, thanks to “recycling.” And while the current proposal can’t be judged in a void, it can be seen as the outcome of a learning curve Seattle has had with stadiums that finally (site aside) has a financing plan that requires no new taxes or diverting current taxes. 
      And the NBA, by its own reckoning, thinks it has a new CBA that will make every club break even in a couple of years. That helps explain why the pool of available teams, once several, is now one.  

  • Petersteinbrueck

    All stadiums seem to be temporary homes to NBA teams because, like Key Arena, the NBA keeps upgrading their facilities demands for posh improvements, club seats, etc , while raising the cost for everyday people and families to enjoy the sport beyond the family budget. That is what mostly disheartens me.

    • Jamo57

      Peter, I must respectively say that is an overstatement and a simplification.   

       I can take the bus to and from Safeco Field from downtown Everett.  In fact, I can walk from my home to the Snohomish County building to catch the 510 and then walk from the County building back home.   I tell my friends I walk to Safeco from home and it’s virtually true.   Cost of the round trip is $7.   Much less than parking around the stadium, and no gas is used and no stress of navigating the freeways.    

      In addition, I also enjoy the small businesses that serve hot dogs, etc on Occidental next to the Clink rather than eat inside the stadium.   That comes to about $9.   I’m a bleacher bum by heart and played outfield so I am used to sitting and watching the game ‘backwards’, but those are also the most economical seats in the stadium.     I am fortunate in regard to living almost on an express route,  but I would imagine most people live within 3-5 miles of a park and ride on one of the major ST Express Routes which all seem to go to SoDo at some point.  All it takes is a little research and some trial and error.  

      I really prefer to ‘spread my money around’ with these events.   We go to Husky football games (season ticket holders), a few Ms games, and I can walk to the Silvertips games (without bus augmentation) here in Everett.   We don’t eat in the stadiums and consciously seek out surrounding restaurants and businesses to eat at before or after games, and try and find ones that are locally owned and operated (though with Husky games that is harder as we take the Metro shuttles into Husky Stadium from the Northgate Mall which is filled with chains).   With the Dawgs at the Clink this year it does give us an oppportunity to support more localy owned businesses are there are more to choose from in SoDo. 

      Using existing public transportation and avoiding stadium concessions is a concious choice we make and came out of the convenience UW implemented with Metro when they expanded Husky Stadium.  But it grew into supporting the ‘little guy’ as the years went by.   

      As to the renovation argument, I have seen Alderwood and Everett Malls have two major renovation and expansions done in the 25 years I have lived north of Seattle.   And each was done to make the properties more ‘upscale’ than their previous design.    I am sure the cities and the counties participated in some regards with traffic flows and the abandonment of roads or zoning modifications.    No one seemed to mind.   Ironically when I see a movie at the Alderwood multiplex, I have never heard anyone in the audience complain about how much Jack Nicholson or George Lucas was making from the film.    It seems to me sports is unfairly targeted in that regard.   (How much did U2 make touring last year, how much did the rake in at the one show at the Clink?)   No one knows or cares.

      Having said all that, I do feel nostalgia for when I could go to Dodger Stadium in HS in the 70s with $10 and pay for parking, some Dodger Dogs and a bleacher seat.    But a movie cost $1.50 too. 

      BTW, taking the Sounder to SoDo on a weekend day game enhances the game day experience tremendously. The train goes along the water for most of the route and costs about $8 round trip. I can’t remember. I simply wave my Orca card. But the scenery is wonderful!!!

    • art thiel

       Peter, indeed that is the most disheartening aspect — pricing a night out so steeply that it can be only a birthday/anniversary/Father’s Day one-off.
       On the other hand, Seattle got 46 years out of a temp building, thanks to “recycling.” And while the current proposal can’t be judged in a void, it can be seen as the outcome of a learning curve Seattle has had with stadiums that finally (site aside) has a financing plan that requires no new taxes or diverting current taxes. 
      And the NBA, by its own reckoning, thinks it has a new CBA that will make every club break even in a couple of years. That helps explain why the pool of available teams, once several, is now one.  

  • Hammtime

    Amen Art!

    Thank you are for trying to bring some levity to the debate! I’m pretty neutral on this but dang, the blind rhetoric on both sides is reaching new lows!

    I’ve found myself turning the station from KJR and 710 whenever they start getting on their arena schtick. They have gone so giddy that dare anyone question anything about Mr. Hansen’s arena proposal and one will get called everyname in the book.

    On the otherside, dare one state that having a new arena might be good for the city and one will get slammed by opponents whining that there are more important things for the city to focus on as if building a new arena and funding for police, fire and schools are not mutually exclusive.

    Let’s get a grip and do it right. Let’s build the arena and let’s fix the port’s transportation issues at the same time.  I also vote we raze Key Arena and put in a nice park.

    • Hammtime

      sheesh, too many thoughts in my head, “….as if building a new arena and funding for police, fire and schools are mutually exclusive.”

      • Jamo57

        The arena will generate the revenue to pay off the bonds taken out to fund the project.  It will generate fundint that otherwise would not exist.   That is the core of the proposal, at least from the standpoint of getting the city and county involved so police, fire, and schools are not put in an ‘either/or position.

        Of course whether one chooses to believe that is another matter. 

        • RadioGuy

          I choose not to believe that, which I guess makes me a “naysayer” even though I’d like to see a new arena built within the general parameters that were originally given.  While the Kingdome bond revenues did help pay for non-sports related things, that’s because King County was diverting the money from paying those bonds off in the first place.  The Kingdome actually generated enough revenue to pay for itself within years of opening, but because Ron Sims and his pals were doing what Congress does with Social Security (funny how IOU’s aren’t the same as currency), it’s still being paid off.

          I get a headache listening to the Pom Pom Clubs on KJR and KIRO…at least Leni Riefenstahl was creative in producing her propaganda, but Softy, The Groz and Gas Man aren’t exactly founts of original thought.  I don’t even bother tuning in anymore because I can get more variety of sounds in a drum circle.

  • Hammtime

    Amen Art!

    Thank you are for trying to bring some levity to the debate! I’m pretty neutral on this but dang, the blind rhetoric on both sides is reaching new lows!

    I’ve found myself turning the station from KJR and 710 whenever they start getting on their arena schtick. They have gone so giddy that dare anyone question anything about Mr. Hansen’s arena proposal and one will get called everyname in the book.

    On the otherside, dare one state that having a new arena might be good for the city and one will get slammed by opponents whining that there are more important things for the city to focus on as if building a new arena and funding for police, fire and schools are not mutually exclusive.

    Let’s get a grip and do it right. Let’s build the arena and let’s fix the port’s transportation issues at the same time.  I also vote we raze Key Arena and put in a nice park.

    • Hammtime

      sheesh, too many thoughts in my head, “….as if building a new arena and funding for police, fire and schools are mutually exclusive.”

      • Jamo57

        The arena will generate the revenue to pay off the bonds taken out to fund the project.  It will generate fundint that otherwise would not exist.   That is the core of the proposal, at least from the standpoint of getting the city and county involved so police, fire, and schools are not put in an ‘either/or position.

        Of course whether one chooses to believe that is another matter. 

        • RadioGuy

          I choose not to believe that, which I guess makes me a “naysayer” even though I’d like to see a new arena built within the general parameters that were originally given.  While the Kingdome bond revenues did help pay for non-sports related things, that’s because King County was diverting the money from paying those bonds off in the first place.  The Kingdome actually generated enough revenue to pay for itself within years of opening, but because Ron Sims and his pals were doing what Congress does with Social Security (funny how IOU’s aren’t the same as currency), it’s still being paid off.

          I get a headache listening to the Pom Pom Clubs on KJR and KIRO…at least Leni Riefenstahl was creative in producing her propaganda, but Softy, The Groz and Gas Man aren’t exactly founts of original thought.  I don’t even bother tuning in anymore because I can get more variety of sounds in a drum circle.

          BTW, do the Storm and the Chieftains (let someone else call them the Redhawks) really think they’ve got the kinds of followings to justify moving into a new arena? As long as they’re tarping off the upper bowl of Key Arena for their home games, they’d be wise to stay where they are (SU could probably fit their crowds into Showare Center, for that matter).

  • jafabian

    I understand why the city and council keep coming back to Key Arena in that they’re seeing billions of dollars going toward the Viaduct and new tunnel.  Not easy to earmark another $200 million towards a project where the business entity (the NBA) is largely responsible for putting Seattle Center in the debt hole their in (by opting to leave for OKC), has shown that they are not responsible for their actions (breaking their lease early) by their own admission operates in the red (during the lockout owners claimed to have lost as much as $300 million the previous season and have incurred similar losses since 2005 according to the AP) and the profit almost goes entirely to millionaire owners and players.  The trickle down effect IMO doesn’t really go out to the surrounding businesses to a great effect.  You didn’t see T.S. McHugh’s close down when the Sonics left for example, which long benefited from the Sonics.  But the NBA up and leaving for OKC certainly had a negative impact. 

    A better move on their part, which I believe is what the councils are trying to do by suggesting a public vote, is to make Key Arena the best option as a sport venue though at this point I agree that what Key Arena offers is well known and it’s time to move on from that point and decide whether or not Chris Hansen’s proposal is a viable option or not and one that is good for Seattle.  It helps that the Key can be a temporary home for an NBA team but it would carry more weight if the NBA actually confirmed that because really, their reputation is not good in Seattle.  Great that Hansen will spend up to $5 million in upgrades but since the city has to agree to convert Key Arena into a facility that won’t compete with the new arena who will cover that cost?  And it seems to me this is a lose-lose proposition for the Seattle Center in the long run as a new arena plus the mandated remodel of Key Arena (can we go back to calling it the Coliseum at this point?) will take away business from them.  I don’t think it’s fair for them to have to fund the cost of converting the Key to a non-competitive facility.  That’s like a death row inmate throwing the swtich on his own electric chair isn’t it?  Really have to feel for Robert Nellams right now.  It’s like he’s being left out in the cold in all this.

    Hansen and his people have to show a benefit to the city and county beyond claiming an inprovement beyond quality of downtown life.  This isn’t simply bringing the Sonics back to Seattle.  The reality is, the Sonics are in OKC and won’t be coming back and when they left they left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  I know Hansen is aware of that but I’m not quite sure he believe it or at least thinks people of that train of thought are a small minority.  I think it’s about everyone on the city and county councils and they’re all pretty sick of sport venues.  Who can blame them?  Is there ever a time when the pro sport teams around here have contact with out civic leader that their own self preservation isn’t involved?

  • jafabian

    I understand why the city and council keep coming back to Key Arena in that they’re seeing billions of dollars going toward the Viaduct and new tunnel.  Not easy to earmark another $200 million towards a project where the business entity (the NBA) is largely responsible for putting Seattle Center in the debt hole their in (by opting to leave for OKC), has shown that they are not responsible for their actions (breaking their lease early) by their own admission operates in the red (during the lockout owners claimed to have lost as much as $300 million the previous season and have incurred similar losses since 2005 according to the AP) and the profit almost goes entirely to millionaire owners and players.  The trickle down effect IMO doesn’t really go out to the surrounding businesses to a great effect.  You didn’t see T.S. McHugh’s close down when the Sonics left for example, which long benefited from the Sonics.  But the NBA up and leaving for OKC certainly had a negative impact. 

    A better move on their part, which I believe is what the councils are trying to do by suggesting a public vote, is to make Key Arena the best option as a sport venue though at this point I agree that what Key Arena offers is well known and it’s time to move on from that point and decide whether or not Chris Hansen’s proposal is a viable option or not and one that is good for Seattle.  It helps that the Key can be a temporary home for an NBA team but it would carry more weight if the NBA actually confirmed that because really, their reputation is not good in Seattle.  Great that Hansen will spend up to $5 million in upgrades but since the city has to agree to convert Key Arena into a facility that won’t compete with the new arena who will cover that cost?  And it seems to me this is a lose-lose proposition for the Seattle Center in the long run as a new arena plus the mandated remodel of Key Arena (can we go back to calling it the Coliseum at this point?) will take away business from them.  I don’t think it’s fair for them to have to fund the cost of converting the Key to a non-competitive facility.  That’s like a death row inmate throwing the swtich on his own electric chair isn’t it?  Really have to feel for Robert Nellams right now.  It’s like he’s being left out in the cold in all this.

    Hansen and his people have to show a benefit to the city and county beyond claiming an inprovement beyond quality of downtown life.  This isn’t simply bringing the Sonics back to Seattle.  The reality is, the Sonics are in OKC and won’t be coming back and when they left they left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  I know Hansen is aware of that but I’m not quite sure he believe it or at least thinks people of that train of thought are a small minority.  I think it’s about everyone on the city and county councils and they’re all pretty sick of sport venues.  Who can blame them?  Is there ever a time when the pro sport teams around here have contact with out civic leader that their own self preservation isn’t involved?