Locals were invited to write down ideas on transportation, arena design, post-event cleanup and other future issues linked to a KeyArena remodel they might be worried about.
It was a quiet, orderly meeting of several dozen local residents and businesspeople from Lower Queen Anne attending a Monday night information session on proposed KeyArena renovations.
The Seattle Uptown Alliance, a non-profit neighborhood group, had called the special meeting to “discuss” issues surrounding the proposed renovation of a potential NBA and NHL facility. And discuss it everyone did in business-like fashion, minus the rancor and emotion typically reserved for any public gathering in which Seattle’s arena topic is raised.
Part of the calm may have been due to the crowd’s makeup, with the Uptown Alliance insisting only local “residents and workers’’ from the immediate vicinity were invited and not sports fans from across the region. The other factor may have been the evening’s format: an interactive setup of work stations in which locals were invited to write down ideas on transportation, arena design, post-event cleanup and other future issues linked to a KeyArena remodel they might be worried about.
“What we wanted to do was have a conversation with the neighbors and those who work in the neighborhood,’’ said Robert Cardona, who handles digital communications for the group. “They have a vested interest in what the city decides to do with the redevelopment area.’’
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A survey taken by the Alliance the past two weeks of 800 residents in the Uptown neighborhood – at the base of Queen Anne Hill – as well as the surrounding vicinity found the majority preferred not to have an arena with NBA and NHL teams. Residents expressed concerns about parking and traffic in the area and how having more than 80 professional sports game nights per year could impact their lives.
The majority said they wanted a music-only venue and preferred that KeyArena’s iconic roof be kept intact rather than have the facility demolished entirely. Cardona, whose group plans to release complete survey results in coming weeks, said it’s important that residents understand some form of KeyArena renovation will be happening regardless of whether its for NBA/NHL or a smaller venue.
And collecting feedback now from residents is important, he added. Cardona said the group also wanted to “cut through some misinformation that’s out there, because it’s easy to conflate the facts.’’
To do that, they invited members of the city’s economic development office, as well as officials from California-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and Oak View Group (OVG) — both planning to submit renovation proposals by an April 12 deadline — to be on hand to answer questions informally.
Brian Surratt, head of Seattle’s economic development office, told attendees the city planned shortly to set up a KeyArena advisory panel comprised of local citizens. That panel would be consulted on any renovation proposals received.
“We will have the committee really try to reflect as much as possible all of the interests that go into what the future of KeyArena can look like,’’ Surratt said.
Surratt also said the city will bring in outside experts in arena operations, finance, design and other areas to help them gauge which proposals are the best ones.
Lance Lopes, spearheading OVG’s proposal efforts locally, told the audience his group is “deeply committed’’ to doing things the right way.
“We understand that this is a civic gem in a really special spot in the city,’’ Lopes said. “We are going to be very careful, thoughtful and deliberate about what we do and make sure we listen and react and do this in a way that we can be very proud of what happens at this location.’’
AEG president Bob Newman followed up by saying: “Having the opportunity to listen before we come up with plans is something that rarely happens and is really, really welcome.’’
Rollin Fatland, a Seattle-based spokesman for entrepreneur Chris Hansen – who is pitching an arena project in the Sodo District – attended the meeting but did not speak.
After KeyArena proposals are received in April, the city plans to decide by late June whether any are viable. From there, a deal would be negotiated and forwarded on to city council for approval.
At the same time, the council would also have the option of exploring Hansen’s new all-private proposal and considering whether to grant his request to be sold part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena.
Mayor Ed Murray has said the city will only approve one major arena capable of hosting NBA and NHL.