NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that whether Chris Hansen’s proposed Sodo District arena in Seattle is ‘shovel ready is not a factor that we are considering in terms of whether we expand.’
NEW YORK — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that a “shovel ready” arena project in Sodo District won’t hasten any decision by the league on future expansion.
Supporters of entrepreneur Chris Hansen have argued that the city vacating part of Occidental Avenue South and getting permits for the arena will help sway the NBA into expanding sooner. An NBA team is needed to trigger up to $200 million in bond funding for a Sodo arena before a deal between Hansen, the city and King County expires in November 2017.
Silver has consistently said the league is unlikely to expand before that deadline and repeated Thursday being poised to build an arena in Seattle or anyplace else won’t change that.
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“Whether or not the arena in Seattle is shovel ready is not a factor that we are considering in terms of whether or not we expand at this point,’’ Silver told The Seattle Times during the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meetings in Manhattan.
Silver repeated what he said at the APSE meetings the past two years — expansion is not a priority for league owners at this time and the NBA first needs to wrap up talks aimed at extending its collective-bargaining agreement (CBA). The league could be headed for a labor showdown if a new CBA is not negotiated by the end of the 2016-17 season.
“We’re going through a collective-bargaining cycle right now, it’s no secret,’’ Silver said. “So, certainly, it’s not something that we would be thinking about as we’re focusing on ensuring that we’re going to have labor peace for the foreseeable future.
“I think that after we complete the extension of our collective-bargaining agreement, I think that would be the natural time, at least, for owners to consider whether or not they would like to expand. … Right now, we are not hearing it coming from within the league. We are hearing from some groups outside the league. But from within the league, there’s no strong push to expand at the moment.’’
Silver went on to say that he does see the NBA eventually expanding.
“Organizations do tend to grow over time and I think that we’re no different,’’ he said. “There are some great communities out there that I know would be wonderful NBA homes. Seattle of course is one of those and we’ve had a great experience there. But at least right now, it’s not something we’re even discussing internally.’’
Silver said he’s aware of the May 2 vote by the Seattle City Council on whether to give up part of Occidental Avenue South for Hansen’s arena. Acquiring the street is the last serious political obstacle faced by Hansen in making the arena project “shovel ready” but some council members have questioned the need to do that if no NBA team will arrive in time.
Current language of the proposal to be voted on states that Hansen would have up to five years to build the arena before he’d give up rights to the street. The MOU expires much earlier than that and council member Bruce Harrell, at a transportation subcommittee meeting last Tuesday, asked whether the city could shorten Hansen’s five-year right to the street to match the November 2017 deadline on the MOU funding arrangement.
Council member Tim Burgess suggested the five-year period was in line with city policy on such matters. Harrell said he doesn’t want Hansen coming back to the city 19 months from now seeking an MOU extension to continue pursuing an NBA team.
Such a move would leave the city stalled on several fronts, including what to do about the future of KeyArena. For now, the city says the MOU with Hansen prevents it from exploring offers to renovate the former home of the Seattle SuperSonics.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council member Sally Bagshaw said she’d like the city to further study a report last summer by the AECOM global architectural firm suggesting that KeyArena could be renovated for $285 million for the NBA and NHL. The idea of such a renovation had previously been dismissed as unfeasible and something the NBA would never want.
But NBA commissioner Silver on Thursday said he hasn’t ruled out anything.
“For me, it’s a fresh start. Nothing’s a closed deal,’’ Silver said of a KeyArena renovation option. “Especially with what an arena renovation looks like these days compared to the old days. It’s very different. And so, when somebody talks about renovating KeyArena — depending on how much was invested — it could look just like a new arena, frankly.
“And so, the devil is in the details there.’’
Silver said he hasn’t read the AECOM report, though he’s seen media coverage about it.
“Ultimately, I’m not even sure what the Seattle community would want in terms of either a new arena or KeyArena,’’ Silver said. “So, while we’re not actively looking at expansion anywhere, it’s far from me to say that one site or one arena is preferable. I just don’t know.’’