Albro owns a company that manages the Seattle Monorail, a 55-year-old train system now within the plans of at least one group offering to renovate KeyArena for NBA and NHL use.
Port of Seattle Commission President Tom Albro said Friday he recused himself two months ago from ongoing discussions on Seattle’s arena situation because of a personal conflict of interest.
Albro owns a company that manages the Seattle Monorail, a 55-year-old train system now within the plans of at least one group offering to renovate KeyArena for NBA and NHL use. Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke said last week that the Monorail would be part of his company’s proposal to improve traffic and transportation around the KeyArena site.
“I have an absolute conflict of interest which I have been clear about to my colleagues for as long as I’ve served with them,’’ said Albro, who owns Seattle Monorail Services, which has run the train system since 1994.
City officials declined comment Friday but said they’ve long been aware of Albro’s ownership of the Monorail company.
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Albro said his longstanding policy has been not to tout KeyArena as the site of the city’s next major arena for NBA and NHL. Instead, he said, he answers KeyArena questions only in general terms when asked directly by an interviewer.
But until January, Albro had continued to voice his opposition to the Sodo District arena proposal pitched by entrepreneur Chris Hansen. Hansen’s previous plan was rejected in a 5-4 city-council vote last May, but he has since returned proposing a similar plan with all-private funding.
“I have long been against this proposed Sodo arena and for many years there was never any talk of a KeyArena (proposal),” Albro said.
But that changed around the time the KeyArena proposal process was launched by the city two months ago. Albro said he had been approached by a state legislative committee to speak about the city’s arena situation on behalf of Port interests.
Albro said he realized then that promoting Port interests against the Sodo arena project could be viewed as touting the KeyArena option. At that point, he adds, he sent out a lengthy e-mail statement to a targeted list of Port and other officials about why he no longer could participate in arena discussions.
The city has set a deadline of April 12 for all proposals to renovate KeyArena, of which side plans for resolving ongoing traffic and parking issues will be given top consideration. OVG and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), both based in Los Angeles, have said they will submit proposals.
Albro’s company in 2014 signed a 10-year deal with the city to manage the Monorail, which runs in a loop from Westlake Center to the Seattle Center campus within a few minutes’ walk of the arena. The deal with the city gives Albro’s company a share of net revenues, which would rise in the event of increased ridership due to NBA and NHL crowds at the arena.
Albro said he has long known that any plan to renovate KeyArena would involve the Monorail and would stand to benefit his company.
“The KeyArena has always been an important venue and driver of ridership on the Monorail,” he said.
Albro added he has instructed Monorail staffers not to tout the KeyArena project over the Sodo one in any media interviews — only to state the system’s ridership capacity and potential as a traffic mitigator.
Steven Gottlieb, a Seattle spokesperson for Leiweke’s group, said Friday they were aware from the beginning of Albro’s involvement in managing the Monorail.
“We were aware of Commissioner Albro’s connection to the Monorail prior to meeting him,” Gottlieb said. “And upon meeting the Commissioner, he shared this information with us as well. The Monorail is a wonderful transportation resource and underutilized asset. It’s a central and important part of Seattle’s history and should play an exciting and integral role in the city’s future.”