A Seattle City Council vote to give up part of Occidental Avenue South to accommodate the possible 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena could take place in January.

Share story

The Seattle City Council has been forwarded a formal recommendation to approve giving up a street so a Sodo District arena proposed by entrepreneur Chris Hansen can be built.

A 65-page report recommending the street removal was forwarded Monday by Mayor Ed Murray and the city’s Department of Transportation to Tom Rasmussen, the council’s transportation chairman. A council vote on whether to give up part of Occidental Avenue South to accommodate the 18,000-to-20,000-seat arena could take place in January.

Council approval of the measure is the final serious bureaucratic hurdle Hansen faces in obtaining permission to build, though legal appeals are possible and financing the venue provides an entirely different challenge.

The report, signed by transportation-department director Scott Kubly, dismissed a Port of Seattle objection that the portion of Occidental is vital to heavy freight hauling. It also said the Seattle Mariners, who have objected to parts of the arena plan, would not see their garage or staging operations adversely impacted by the street’s removal.

The arena would be able to accommodate NBA and NHL games, though the question of which sport would arrive first is key to triggering public funding to build the $490 million venue.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hansen, the city and King County provides up to $200 million in bond funding toward an arena, but only if an NBA team is acquired. There is no “NHL first” funding mechanism, and Murray has indicated that substantially more private funds would be needed if only hockey comes here for now.

That’s an issue, as the NBA has said it isn’t coming in the near term. Murray has called on Hansen and potential NHL partner Victor Coleman to work out a financial arrangement so a venue can be built for hockey with more private funds before the MOU expires in November 2017.

Public records released three weeks ago show that Murray asked the city’s legal staff last summer to explore whether the city helping groups interested in KeyArena as an alternative site would be allowed under the MOU. But in a recent interview, Murray said the MOU prevents any KeyArena overhauls while the agreement remains in effect.