BY SPNW Staff 04:04PM 10/26/2016

Mayor Murray will pursue KeyArena option

Despite Chris Hansen’s offer to privately fund his proposed SoDo arena, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is still going to pursue the option of renovating KeyArena at the Seattle Center.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is pursuing the KeyArena option. / Wiki Commons

Even though entrepreneur Chris Hansen Tuesday seemingly removed a major obstacle to his proposed SoDo basketball/hockey arena by offering to privately fund the facility, plus help pay for the Lander Street overpass, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office told KING5 Wednesday that Murray is entertaining other ideas for an arena, specifically involving KeyArena.

The mayor’s budget director, Ben Noble, told KING5 that Murray is again exploring a major renovation of the Key. The facility, in the Seattle Center, served as home to the NBA’s SuperSonics until 2008, when they moved to Oklahoma City, setting off the eight-year scramble to replace them.

“We’ve been approached by more than one legitimate group,” said Noble. who added that a 2015 AECOM report on a potential remodel the Key to accommodate the NHL initially generated little interest.

“Nothing much came of it, at first,” said Noble.

But after the Seattle City Council voted May 2 to reject the street vacation that Hansen’s group needs to proceed with an arena in SoDo, talk about the KeyArena option picked up.

Noble explained that the groups exploring renovating Key Arena have bought into the AECOM study’s conclusion that pivoting the floor 45 degrees would allow for NBA and NHL teams to play there. He added that the arena’s roof is not designated with landmark status so that it could be torn down for the right project.

“There are perhaps legs to the discussions,” Noble said, adding that the interested groups, whom he declined to identify, believe they can contribute significant private money to redevelop the Key without a commitment for an NBA or NHL team. Noble said it’s unclear whether these groups would seek public money.

Noble said talks have advanced far enough that the city is planning to issue a “request for proposal” in December. Noble said he believes the RFP plans helps explain why Hansen’s group made its privately financed SODO arena pitch Tuesday.

Regardless of Hansen’s offer, Noble said the city plans to issue the RFP, while acknowledging that any RFP would have to address the significant transportation and parking challenges in and around Seattle Center. A column by Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest addressed some of those issues in March.

“We still remain in contact with the Hansen folks,” said Noble.

The city is contractually obligated to Hansen, via the MOU, until November 2017.


  • 1coolguy

    Murray is SUCH a STIFF! Apparently he never DROVE to the Sonics games, where every game was a nightmare. Those games were a mess to drive to and I live on Capitol Hill! Imagine being from the Eastside, or North or South! Every game was a traffic nightmare to the degree we eventually dropped our tickets.
    And here there is a PRIVATE party willing to pay for the entire project and what does Dumb-ass Murray do? Pours cold water on it! The guy is yet again proving he has no skill set to be mayor. Circle your calendar Seattle – 11/7/17 is the day we dump this guy and move on, hopefully to a more rational, competent person.

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    • art thiel

      Even before Murray, the city, the world leader in recycling, has been trying to get more mileage out of the Key. It’s simply not going to work. But if a private company foots the entire bill and gets to start over at Seattle Center and includes a massive Monorail upgrade, that would be interesting.

      Sound be a snap.

      • art thiel

        *Should* be a snap.

        • 1coolguy

          Having been to newer arenas around the country, as you have also, the physical footprint of the Key, let alone the surrounding property, is simply too small for a modern, current arena. Regardless of what they do to teh Key, nothing can cause otto compete with teh excellent traffic location of the SODO area, the confluence of 99,I-5 and I-90, together with teh Link and busses. Last M’s game I took the link from UW and it was superb, twelve (12) minutes! The last few years of teh Sonics we parked downtown and took the monorail, yet that was before Seattle’s explosive downtown growth. Now we don’t go near it. The city should think not of an either/or proposition, but as the Key for smaller events and those that work in the Seattle Center area, and Hanson’s project for NHL/NBA/large events.
          As the Hanson events would be almost exclusively night-time events, the Port’s and union’s positions are irrelevant and false.

    • Paul Harmening

      Hate to ruin your 11/7/17 dumping date but knowing how King County goes, he could very well be our next Gov.

  • bevdog

    But wait, there is more good news from the city’s wise leadership. Word is they want to install heated hitching posts on city streets for people’s ponies!!

    Had Sonic season tickets for 30 years from day one. Lived on the Eastside in Redmond and you are right. The drive to and from the games was a nightmare. The Mercer street lights were never calibrated by the city traffic gurus to account for 15,000 folks leaving at once after a game. When the Sonics played in Tacoma for one season, the drive home took only 10 minutes longer. Amazing difference. Hats off to Tacoma not so with Seattle. What were they thinking?

    • art thiel

      Take your bike, silly. Eventually, it will be quicker.

      • 1coolguy

        Pronto! It’s the answer, right? I’m certain you will get to meet the goofballs Murray and McGinn on the way!

      • Lee Brunk

        It’s probably quicker already.

  • Buggy White

    We lived on Queen Anne for a decade or so, and the traffic on game days was always terrible. Also, how much money would it cost the city, compared to Hansen’s deal, to re-do the Key once more? What a joke! Does he have supporters who own parking lots, restaurants and bars near the Key, and want their game day receipts to go up again?

    • art thiel

      AEG is the likely private partner. They do giant arenas globally.

  • Lee Brunk

    Let’s see, so Plan A makes fans either slog through the Mercer Mess to price-gouged, nearly non-existent parking or ride one of several overwhelmed neighborhood routes or the Monorail when it isn’t broken down AND probably also end up footing a good chunk of the renovation bill. Plan B gives fans two or three times as much nearby parking, a choice of umpteen different bus routes coming from all over the Metro area, Sounder, and the light rail to a fully privately funded stadium in what is basically already a stadium district, and the Lander bypass gets done too? What is really going on here?

    • art thiel

      The city loves it some Seattle Center. And doesn’t want to be engaged in the inevitable litigation with partner Hansen if the Sodo site is green-lighted.

      • disqus_dbKpkXha4y

        what litigation could arise from the arena? Public would have zero risk, so it would just be a private citizen asking for a public street. Just wait till the historical folks and the neighborhood associations attack the key.

      • Lee Brunk

        It’s an arena deal: litigation is inevitable even if it’s built on the Moon.

    • 1coolguy

      Murray, Sawant, McDermott, McGinn, Inslee, etc, etc, etc. With this lineup of such an unskilled DNA pool, what would you expect? The extent of these people’s skills amounts to 1) Being a Dem or Socialist 2) SOMEHOW knowing how to run for office.

      • Lee Brunk

        I think this election has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that stupid has no party affiliation.

      • art thiel

        The pol-bashing is so easy and SOOOO tiresome. As a rock-ribbed Republican you should be thrilled that all these socialists kept Hansen away from the public trough.

        • 1coolguy

          Art – these are very easy targets, given their collective inept results. As to the public trough, Hansen just wanted to use the city’s credit to get a better interest rate, not for the city to throw in any funding, unlike what both the M’s and Hawks received.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Only Seattle could screw up a privately financed stadium. It’s as if the Safeco and Centurylink building experiences were so traumatic they must have been tantamount to being victimized by a war crime. I wish my profession was to study things for the SCC. I could charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for self evident term papers.

    I’ll save Seattle a few hundred thousand dollars. No. KeyArena is not a viable modern arena and does not have the surrounding infrastructure until transporter technology comes online.

    • art thiel

      The city might have a shot if it agrees to a complete teardown of the Key, finds a private partner willing to fund the construction and operate the new facility on public land at no public expense, then get approval from the hundreds of constituencies that use Seattle Center for other purposes. Not to mention the Gates Foundation across the street.

      You go, Ed.

      • Chad

        Why would the Gates Foundation have anything to say about this?

        They could make a lot of money on game days letting fans pay $20 or more to park in that Gates Foundation parking garage.

  • Tman

    What is public and what is private enterprise?

    Did the city prosper under the arrangement between Key Arena and the Sonics? If so, what provisions can be made to ensure the team(s) remain in Seattle?

    As a matter of principle, If the city is going to fund sports stadiums, the city should own the teams.

    The City of Green Bay owns the Packers.

    Should city tax revenues work for the benefit of all the people or to enhance the incomes of a few wealthy investors?

    If sports stadiums are a good investment, private investors will come forward as it seems they have in this scenario.

    Is it a good idea to use public tax dollars to build stadiums, a subsidy for billionaire sports team owners, while thousands live in their cars and in the doorways of the high rise buildings downtown?

    *According to the latest count in January, at least 3,772 people spend their nights outside in King County. An even greater number have some temporary roof over their heads, in homeless shelters or transitional housing.

    Homelessness is growing much faster in King County than the county’s overall population.

  • disqus_dbKpkXha4y

    hopefully the geniuses will finance this one for 30 years and sign a 25 year lease! Worked the first time!