BY Art Thiel 08:15PM 07/10/2017

Thiel: Council digs in on KeyArena upgrade plan

Seattle City Council learned Monday there will be no “fully baked” transportation proposal from Oak View Group regarding Key Arena remodel before the council’s decision.

How to get in and out of a busier Seattle Center in a more crowded neighborhood was a topic for the City Council Monday. /

Anyone expecting a complete transportation/parking explainer for the proposed remodel of KeyArena by the time a potential development deal is signed in December will be disappointed. That was the noteworthy  takeaway Monday from the first meeting of a Seattle City Council committee vetting Mayor Ed Murray’s preferred development partner. 

The Select Committee on Civic Arenas quizzed Brian Surratt, point man on the city’s partnership with Oak View Group, winner in June of the upgrade bid for the 55-year-0ld building owned by the city. Council member Lorena Gonzalez asked Surratt about the time frame for the project’s most controversial element — moving people in and out of an  urban neighborhood much more dense than when NBA games were last played there in 2008.

“A fully baked transportation management plan, we should not expect to see that in (a memorandum of understanding),” Surratt said, according to a story on “I think what you can expect to see is a level of commitment from OVG and the city to develop a process to develop that fully baked transportation management.”

For those scoring at home, that’s two process developments for one part of the arena plan in process-heavy Seattle government.

“A project as complicated as this, ” said Surratt, “we’re not going to come up with a laundry list of projects to fund in the next two months to put a price tag on those items.”

Council member Rob Johnson seemed unimpressed with the answer, saying, “at the very minimum, a dollar figure from the private sector” was needed to help the council render a judgment on the transportation solution.

Murray said he wants a decision from the council by Sept. 12 so that he can strike a deal with OVG before he leaves office Dec. 31. He has spoken publicly about his desire to have the commitment to a Key remodel as part of his mayoral legacy.

Discussion of the rival for the Key remodel, Chris Hansen’s five-year pursuit of an arena in Sodo, was not on the Monday agenda, which went for 90 minutes (with comments from the public) only on the OVG plan. But two news developments gave Hansen’s plan some coincidental profile.

Before the council meeting, former mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference to support Hansen’s desire for reconsideration of a street vacation, which was rejected 14 months ago on a 5-4 council vote. Hansen subsequently dropped his bid for public financing and has since resubmitted a fully private proposal to the city.

One of 21 declared candidates, McGinn is seeking his old job back that he lost to Murray. McGinn helped create in 2012 a memorandum of understanding with Hansen for the Sodo project and Monday expressed reservations about Murray’s haste to pursue a Key solution.

“The Mayor is proposing to ‘cut a deal’ with OVG and a majority of council members before the opportunity for significant public review,” McGinn posted on his campaign blog.

He cited six concerns with OVG proposal regarding cost overruns, debt financing, additional costs, uncertain revenues, dependency on tax credits and lost parking-garage revenues.

It should be noted that the 2012 MOU with Hansen had no comprehensive transportation analysis, which emerged later as part of the mandatory state environmental impact statement in 2015. After making requests of Hansen for improvements that were fulfilled, the Seattle Department of Transportation approved his plan.

On another front, the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance released a study Monday that compared the two projects regarding their generation of tax revenues. It concluded that the Sodo project would generate three times the amount of OVG’s to the city’s general fund over the life of the proposed 35-year lease.

The study was funded by Hansen’s group and started work May 19.

Using the same set of assumptions for both proposals, the study said Sodo would generate $103 million and OVG $34 million.

But because the Key is city property, it does not pay property taxes, and Hansen’s private ownership of 12.5 acres of Sodo commercial property is already paying property taxes.

David Abrams / Inner Circle Sports

Friday, the council released the names of those who will negotiate on behalf of the city with OVG, as well as four outside consultants with expertise in arenas.

Named as financial consultant was David Abrams of Inner Circle Sports, a New York City firm that specializes in global finance advice in sports venues. A longtime investment banker, he has worked on stadium projects in several NFL cities.

Abrams’ task is to offer objective financial analysis independent of city politics.


  • Kirkland

    Require at the very least a framework for traffic and transportation issues (dates, consultants, funding, etc.) in the September documentation, instead of kicking the can down the road.

    • art thiel

      Hard to know what to require when no one knows what the commute will look like once the new 99 tunnel opens in 2019, two years before the earliest NHL game.

  • Jamo57

    There is clearly an opportunity here for the city to foster a public/private partnership in fitting this square peg in a round hole don’t you think, Art?

    The Murray/OVG group can offer corporate naming rights to fund the infrastructure improvements needed to force this legacy on the community at large. And to borrow on your past reporting regarding rebranding Safeco Field, perhaps the local cannabis industry can step in.

    Up here in Everett we have a cannabis retail store, Bud’s Garage. I think it’s time for Snohomish County to partner in being a part of the solution rather than just adding to the congestion in the area. Bud’s Fully-Baked Parking Garage would seem to be a win-win!

    The City of Seattle has had worse ideas.

    • art thiel

      Since the NHL will arrive first, I say invite Canadian participation by naming the arena after British Columbia’s most important export: B.C. Bud.

  • Mike Carr

    There is no transportation or parking solution for Key Arena. Period. No Magic Bullet. A NBA or NHL game at Key Arena will cause traffic havoc from I-5, through downtown, the Mercer corridor, and Elliott all the way to the Ballard Bridge. Parking is not a priority for the City, we have removed many, many garages and spots in the surrounding area. Light Rail is a dream right now, Metro is not the answer.

    • art thiel

      You keep forgetting the Monorail.

      • Beckett Tallmadge

        Nice, Art……It’s that kind of forward thinking that will get you a job on the mayors staff or possibly Geoff bakers replacement at the Times.

      • Mike Carr

        Last I saw the Monorail goes from Westlake to Seattle Center. Hardly anyone uses it.

      • Steed


        Sounds like you are forgetting the automated drones, bringing people to the Arena from, um, somewhere else where they have to park.

      • Ken S.

        The monorail? Surely you jest! That thing is a relic much like Key Arena. Their time has passed but it seems politicians have other ideas. It can’t transport 30,000+ to and from West Lake Center in a timely manner. In this day and age people going to an event want to drive up in their own private vehicle – park – go to the event – and have every expectation that traffic will be somewhat bearable. Key Arena is not the answer to Seattle getting an NBA or NHL team. I’ve been to many events in the Center over the years. Had there been better ingress/egress I might have gone to more events there. I certainly won’t be going to any events there in the future regardless of the events being held.

  • DAWG

    Far out, man ! We’re going to get a transportation mitigation plan after the MOU is signed. Cool. These OVG guys are really hip. Killer transportation plan ! So, cool ! Dave Chappel in the Movie “HALF BAKED”

  • DAWG
  • DAWG I apologize in advance but this whole fully baked vs. “HALF BAKED” has me rolling around on the ground with laughter.

  • Nads

    “I think what you can expect to see is a level of commitment from OVG and the city to develop a process to develop that fully baked transportation management.”

    Jeez!!! All one need do is read that sentence and fully understand that the wool is getting pulled over the public eye. A commitment to develop a process….. A statement from a Murray surrogate that reeks of pure bulls**t. It is perfectly clear the Council should not approve this plan but wait for the next administration to give it a clear and less biased examination.

    • art thiel

      What would allay at least some concerns is if there were no artificial deadline for a deal, such as the end of Murray’s term. As I wrote, Hansen didn’t have a transpo plan either in 2012, but he wasn’t building in a residential area being rapidly overbuilt. That’s part of why he chose Sodo.

      The council 14 months ago chose to ignore SDOT’s conclusion that traffic impacts would be minimal after Hansen agreed to some mitigations.

  • DAWG
  • Hey Buddy

    How can the city preach that they want the best deal for the taxpayer and not address transportation in the MOU? They have blinders on and it is going to come back to bite them and the city years down the road if they continue at this pace for the sake of padding a mayors “legacy.”

    • art thiel

      I think the council is hip to the issue, and they don’t have to worry about political consequences because the mayor is a lame duck.

  • DAWG

    I do truly apologize for the graphics. But, I could not resist. You may delete, omit or do what you will with them. But my, God, what a choice of words. FULLY BAKED. I’m sorry.

  • SoDo Slayer

    “A City Council staff report in 2004 found that ‘the two-way Mercer Improvements will do little or nothing to keep an already severe congestion in South Lake Union from getting significantly worse in the future. Therefore, it is highly questionable that the two-way Mercer improvements will support the desired growth in South Lake Union, foster greater transit use, or effectively reconnect South Lake Union with nearby neighborhoods.’ ”

    By Susan Gilmore; 10/15/07; The Seattle Times

    $200 Million plus in spending after that 2004 City Council report and where are we ?

  • WestCoastBias79

    This is so frustrating to watch. I completely understand the city’s need to keep KeyArena viable, however, there is precedent for two arenas working. I realize Seattle is not Los Angeles, but Inglewood kept the Forum viable by doing a $70 million renovation to create an intimate concert venue for artists/shows that didn’t require or want the size of Staples Center. It’s actually an incredible venue for shows, and that place pre-renovation was a dump–like worse than Seattle Center Coliseum dump. The Seattle metro area has basically been a two arena area for years if you count the Tacoma Dome. Yes, the Tacoma Dome would be the loser with a renovated KeyArena and SODO Arena, but that’s Tacoma’s problem.

    A new SODO Arena and downsized KeyArena at a reasonable cost for concerts/SU/WNBA makes too much sense for it to ever happen.

  • Ya buried the led, Art: “Using the same set of assumptions for both proposals, the study said Sodo would generate $103 million and OVG $34 million.”

    And oh yeah, transportation plan isn’t fully baked. I’m beginning to think Mayor Murray is tho