BY Art Thiel 03:08PM 04/18/2017

Both KeyArena plans have some public ask

Oak View Group joined Seattle Partners in asking for some public-financing help in their proposals to upgrade KeyArena, OVG wants its help after the building is open, SP seeks to save money during construction.

View of the interior entrance at the “Seattle Coliseum” by developers Seattle Partners.

Turns out that both bidders seeking to turn KeyArena into a premier concert/sports venue have requests for some public-funding help. But unlike Seattle Partners (AEG) that wanted public bonds to help cut costs for construction, Oak View Group seeks to have some post-opening city admissions taxes redirected to a capital fund that covers maintenance and improvements.

The competing parties made their first presentations Monday to the Seattle City Council after meeting the city’s deadline a week ago for proposals to renovate the building that could house NBA and NHL teams as soon as 2020, if all goes well. Since neither league has committed to coming to Seattle, both bidders seek to fill dates with top-end concerts.

According to a city source who saw the presentations, OVG, which put a $564 million price tag to the project, seeks to re-direct any admissions taxes above the current level from KeyArena, reasoning that the increased revenues would not otherwise exist without the improved building. The money would go back into the building’s fund to maintain it in first-class condition.

Alternatively, OVG has suggested that the tax could be waived in exchange for OVG being fully responsible for maintenance.

The admissions-tax revenue is a commonly pursued item in arena/stadium deals locally and nationally. Neither the Mariners nor the Seahawks pay a city admissions tax in their publicly funded facilities. Chris Hansen, who for five years has pursued building an arena in Sodo, has made a similar request for his plan.

The amount of money that would go to the fund was not made clear.

Spokesperson Steven Gottlieb said OVG would not publicly share information about the request and its value.

“We have provided the city with the framework for our proposed funding model and approach,” he wrote in an email. “As the process unfolds, we anticipate further discussions. But outside of our executive summary, we will rely on the city to share information with the public as it sees fit and we won’t be providing any details independent of that process.”

City attorney Ben Noble was at the meeting and confirmed, in response to a question from council member Tim Burgess, that there was an ask for funds.

“I think that’s fair, and in the context of a public arena, they think that that’s appropriate,” Noble was quoted as saying by

The disclosure follows news last week that Seattle Partners made a “suggestion” that the city provide $250 million in bonds in order to borrow money at a cheaper rate to fund construction. The group said the savings during construction of what they estimated to be a $520 million project would allow them to return to the city a revenue surplus estimated to be $144 million over the 35-year life of the bonds.

The suggestion, as well as OVG’s admissions-tax request, runs counter to the terms of the request for proposals, which said any public funds for the project would be “minimal.”

Seattle Partners’ suggestion is similar to the original request from Chris Hansen in 2012 for his arena in Sodo. He sought up to $200 million in bonds to save on interest-rate charges. But after his proposal was stymied in May by the council’s refusal to vacate a street for his building, his recent re-submission abandoned the request.

In the case of bidders for the Key project, the city would own the building and the land, and Oak View or Seattle Partners would be the operators. The arrangement could be a sticking point for a team’s potential owners, who generally prefer to own and/or operate their buildings to maximize revenues for the teams.

But before that, the council will have to consider whether bearing a portion of the costs is worth the benefit. The advantage the Key bidders have over Hansen’s original request is that the public assistance would go to improving a public asset at Seattle Center. Hansen is a private developer working on land he owns.

The council’s committee on the arena will meet again in May. The choice of the winning developer is scheduled to be made by June 30. It’s also possible that the city could decline both offers, opening the way for Hansen’s second try.




  • WestCoastBias79

    It’s all noise until someone comes up with a viable plan to get people in and out of the area.

    • Steed

      Get up to speed, Bud. Flying drones, the monorail. Those are just two of the brilliant ideas for getting people to the arena.

      • MarkS

        We can always “ride the duck”

        • art thiel

          We’re going to put you in the Bubbleator (look it up).

          • MarkS

            I’m old enough to remember the Bubbleator.

            My comment was sarcasm. Thought that was obvious.

          • art thiel

            So was mine.

          • 1coolguy

            OMG – I actually rode the Bubblator at the “62 Fair! Is it still in the Food Circus (or have they changed its’ name?)

          • art thiel

            It’s the Armory. But no munitions.

      • art thiel

        It’s been said before: Flintstones and Jetsons transpo solutions.

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      • Jamo57

        Hey, let’s think outside the box here. Over the course of the life of the arena, surely transporter technology will become available. Beam me to the men’s room Scotty!

        • art thiel

          Make it so.

    • art thiel

      There’s a sequence of events that has to take place, and that’s part of it. But not at the moment. The city could deny both bids, and it’s back to Hansen.

      • 1coolguy

        Why should it be either or? Can the city support both?
        The Key makes no sense, given traffic, but if the developers want to put up their risk capital, I say go for it, but NOT to the exclusion of the sensible choice, SODO.

        • art thiel

          Doing both is unlikely because the bidders believe, but won’t say, that Hansen can’t pay the bills with just the pro team income(s).

          • LarryLurex70

            I think those of that opinion are scared you-know-what-less that SoDo would steal all major indoor concert revenue from the City/”Seattle Coliseum” site, too.

          • inplaylose

            yeah, the idea that Hansen wouldn’t be able to make income from concert revenue is nonsense. if the building is there, it will get used. that whole line of argument put forth in favor of the Seattle Center site is flimsy.

          • LarryLurex70

            Not to mention the fact that The Forum, post-OVG renovation – doesn’t get as much concert action as they claim it does and probably isn’t a money maker without a primary sports tenant, which it doesn’t have. They still have to compete with Staples Center for events, and likely are only getting their leftovers if it’s already overbooked.

      • LarryLurex70

        I’ll believe THAT when it actually happens.

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  • 1coolguy

    The only public asks they can make that are of any sense are either an off ramp from I-5 directly to the Key or a Link Light Rail line extension, otherwise, this is a formula for “traffic-zilla” for every event.
    I am all for the mayor backing the project in an effort to prop up a city property, yet not to the exclusion of the BEST choice, SODO, for all the reasons we already know.

    • art thiel

      I’m a skeptic about traffic/parking, but I haven’t seen all the details. And none of us, including the traffic engineers, will know how the public will use the tolled tunnel in 2019 with no exits to downtown.

  • Tom G.

    I know I’m a broken record here about this topic, but if all 3 arena proposals are going to ask for some public dollars, we may as well get to the point with this debate.

    What does the City prioritize FIRST?

    The Sonics or “saving the clock tower”?

    Because if it’s about saving KeyArena, then we may as well hope Tukwila comes back to life because I can’t see SODO getting final approval in that scenario and then it’d likely be hard to fit an NBA team in a building where the City and AEG/OVG would have too much power. Plus, they’d probably ignore lingering concerns about traffic, parking and copious red tape if the City was hellbent on doing it THEIR way.

    If it’s about getting the Sonics back, then I’d hope and expect a more fan-friendly and open-minded conversation would take place about both Key and SODO.

  • Kirkland

    Even if I-91 isn’t in play, I wonder if these plans will get the same no-public-money-for-sports blowback Hansen got.

  • Effzee

    #picardfacepalm @ this whole mess

    • art thiel

      Yoda: Patience, have you must

  • TomRunz

    The fix is in.

    • LarryLurex70

      Definitely feeling that way, eh? Really gotta feel for Hansen at this point. What more can the guy (and his investors) do?