The Seattle Center Advisory Commission wrote a letter in October about exploring the viability of a $285 million remodel of KeyArena for NBA and NHL if a new Sodo District arena isn’t built. That group also wanted to explore a $150 million retrofit that would split the venue in two.
The Seattle Center Advisory Commission in late October wrote a letter expressing interest in remodeling KeyArena into an NHL/NBA facility if no new Sodo District arena is built.
The 16-member citizens’ group, appointed by Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council, added that further assessment was needed to determine whether the estimated $285 million option was viable. The group also favored splitting KeyArena into a secondary two-event facility if construction does start on a new Sodo arena proposed by entrepreneur Chris Hansen.
The group attended a July briefing given by the AECOM engineering and architectural firm, which had written a report on future uses for KeyArena, including altering the seating and floor to enlarge it for NHL/NBA use.
“The commission is very interested in the option that rotated the seating bowl off-axis to increase a seating bowl capacity that might meet the NBA’s and NHL’s minimum seat count,’’ said the Oct. 26 letter to then councilmember Jean Godden, obtained by The Seattle Times on Wednesday via a public-records request.
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The group also agreed that if Hansen’s project gets approved in Sodo, maintaining KeyArena as a large secondary venue, or repurposing it into an indoor water park, aquarium or other facility would not be an option “for keeping Seattle Center a vibrant city asset and regional attraction.”
Instead, it concluded KeyArena’s only “viable and interesting” option as a secondary facility was an AECOM proposal to split it into two venues, with half used for non-sports entertainment and the other for Seattle Storm and Seattle University men’s basketball games.
“This is an interesting idea and might warrant further exploration,’’ the group said, adding that, like the bigger NHL/NBA remodel and other options, a more complete feasibility study was needed.
The city has scheduled a public hearing March 15 before a possible late-April vote on whether to vacate part of Occidental Avenue South for Hansen’s proposed arena. The City Council is expected to make the street removal conditional upon Hansen fulfilling all requirements of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) he has with the city and King County.
One of those is securing an NBA franchise, which would trigger up to $200 million in public bond funding for the project. The NBA says no teams are available for expansion or relocation.
Hansen’s MOU expires in November 2017. If he can’t land the team by then, his deal and project would effectively end.
Regardless, the future of KeyArena still has to be examined. If no Sodo venue emerges, the commission said it favored possibly providing much-needed upgrades to maintain KeyArena as a primary venue but without modifying it for NHL/NBA use. AECOM puts the budget for that at about $150 million.
“We would very much like to see more detail on this scenario in the hope that some of these improvements could be undertaken as part of the city’s ongoing capital budgeting process,’’ the letter said.
In order to consider the additional NHL/NBA upgrades, the commission needs more detail on the overall square-footage calculations, seat counts and the capital-cost estimates.