Without a viable NBA team on the market, the deal for a new arena in Sodo doesn’t pencil out.
WITHOUT an NBA team as an anchor, the current deal between the City of Seattle and would-be developers of a new Sodo arena should be waved off like an after-the-buzzer shot.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Council President Tim Burgess suggested as much in the past week. Their thinking on this issue is clear: The revenue stream for an NHL-only arena is too sparse to justify the city and county’s commitment to put up $200 million in city and county bonds. No NBA team appears to be on the market, so it seems the NHL is the prime target.
Murray’s and Burgess’ statements also reflect a realpolitik. By most counts, there aren’t enough yes votes on the council to re-approve anything like the deal inked by former Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and hedge-fund billionaire Chris Hansen, which required an NBA-first arena.
The city’s commitment was too generous to begin with and wrongly tried to shoehorn a third stadium into the ever-shrinking industrial core adjacent to the Port of Seattle. The Port is planning a new feasibility study to look at alternative sites.
Fortunately for Seattle and King County taxpayers, the power of the marketplace might finally be working in our favor. Typically, professional sports owners are able to back their limousines right up to municipal treasuries and grab the loot.
This time, stadium proposals for Tukwila and Bellevue have emerged. Whether these deals will actually materialize is an open question, but they show that Sodo is not the only option for the return of the Sonics.
The Tukwila proposal would be entirely privately financed. If the City of Seattle, somehow, goes forward with an NHL-first arena in Sodo, it should drive a much harder bargain: no public financing. The ability for the Hansen-led group to ante up, at the last minute, an extra $100 million in its 2013 bid for the Sacramento Kings undercuts the argument that any municipal financing is needed.
Unfortunately, one option not being discussed is a reinvigorated and remodeled KeyArena. It is a shame that the longtime city-owned home of the Sonics does not appear to be under consideration for the future Sonics.