Evan Clifthorne, executive director of the Project Belltown community group, was on a 13-member KeyArena advisory committee that met multiple times with the City of Seattle and the Oak View Group to discuss the planned arena upgrade. “It really was a novel concept,” he said.
Tuesday’s news conference was canceled after new sexual-abuse allegations against Mayor Ed Murray. More updates to come.
Evan Clifthorne had a firsthand look at the community discussion shaping a new deal on a $600 million renovation of KeyArena.
As executive director of the Project Belltown community group, Clifthorne was on a 13-member KeyArena advisory committee that met multiple times with the City of Seattle and Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG) to discuss the planned arena upgrade. Mayor Ed Murray and OVG were scheduled to announce a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the proposed renovation they hope the Seattle City Council signs off on by Dec. 31.
“One of the things unique about this process was the way in which they engaged the entire community in a way we’ve never seen happen before for a sports project,” Clifthorne said. “I think that whatever winds up happening with the project, the process is a model other cities around the country should be looking at.”
OVG co-founder and CEO Tim Leiweke on Monday credited the advisory meetings with prodding his group’s decision to commit $40 million to a transportation fund to mitigate traffic and parking in neighborhoods around KeyArena. Clifthorne’s neighborhood counterparts from the Uptown Alliance and South Lake Union Community Council were also on the advisory committee.
“It really was a novel concept,” Clifthorne said. “Getting to know what the people who live and work in those neighborhoods every day really think about what’s going to happen. And giving them a say in it.”
That stands in contrast to a 2012 MOU negotiated largely behind the scenes between entrepreneur Chris Hansen and then-Mayor Mike McGinn on a proposed arena for the city’s Sodo District. When that draft MOU first appeared, it encountered immediate opposition from local stakeholders — the Port of Seattle, Mariners and local Maritime unions among the most notorious.
Hansen last week surprised many with an offer to do his own KeyArena renovation into a downsized, split-venue facility for concerts and music at a cost between $90 million to $100 million if his Sodo arena is approved and built. The city dismissed the offer, saying the time to do it was during a Request for Proposals (RFP) on KeyArena renovations launched in January.
Clifthorne said he was stunned and a bit put off by Hansen’s offer.
“They never talked to any of the groups representing the people who live and work down near KeyArena,” he said. “They just assumed they were going to show up, drop this in everybody’s lap at the last minute and just get their way.”
Clifthorne noted a statement announcing the Hansen offer, on his Sodo group’s Sonics Arena website, says a downsized KeyArena is better for “the Lower Queen Anne’’ neighborhood surrounding it.
“That neighborhood isn’t called Lower Queen Anne, it’s called Uptown,” Clifthorne said. “If you’re going to tell people what you think is good for their neighborhood, it probably helps to know what the neighborhood calls itself first.”
Leiweke on Monday said the Sodo group tried to “go off on their own, without any collaboration, communication or cooperation from anyone in the city, the council, the neighborhood or the Mayor’s office and then try to say ‘This is the plan we should do’ — I think that’s what’s wrong with Sodo.
“They never, ever communicated properly to the leagues or the city, and then they get ahead of them. We went through an RFP process because at the end of the day, we respect the city and the citizens of Seattle to dictate what they want to do with their property.”