Chris Hansen has applied for a new vote on vacating part of Occidental Ave. South so his project can proceed. But representatives of the three team owners, among others, say an initial agreement between all parties in April 2016 has yet to be solidified as intended.
Representatives of the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders ownership are demanding that Chris Hansen’s proposed arena for NBA and NHL use in the Sodo District be required to enter into a “binding agreement” on event and game scheduling.
Hansen has applied to the City of Seattle for a new vote on vacating part of Occidental Avenue South so his project can proceed. But representatives of the three team owners, as well as the city’s annual RV show and the public stadium authority overseeing CenturyLink Field, have written the city’s transportation department to say an initial agreement between all parties in April 2016 has yet to be solidified as intended.
Hansen’s group referenced having a scheduling deal in his latest application, in February, to the city asking for a new Occidental vote. But the new team letters, obtained by The Seattle Times, seeking the binding pact were submitted in late March during a comment phase on Hansen’s proposal and have yet to be made public by the city.
First & Goal Inc., formed by Seahawks owner Paul Allen to run the team’s business, states the previous deal must “be made more specific and incorporated into a binding agreement among the venue owners and operators,’’ as initially intended.
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“This has not happened,’’ wrote First & Goal vice president David Young. He suggested that the city’s transportation department consider the lack of a binding agreement before recommending whether to proceed with a new vote. “It should be noted that CenturyLink Venues and Safeco Field have such a binding scheduling agreement.’’
Jack McCullough, an attorney representing Hansen’s group, wrote in an e-mail Friday to The Times that a “scheduling condition” is in place.
“Last year, during the City Council review process for the (proposed) street vacation, a comprehensive understanding on Arena scheduling was negotiated among the teams and the venues and SDOT, under the watchful eyes of the City Council. That understanding was embodied in an elaborate scheduling condition imposed on the street-vacation proposal.
“ … This scheduling condition covers the issues that would be addressed in a scheduling agreement, so a separate agreement is unnecessary. As we have re-commenced the street-vacation process this year, we have been quite explicit that this condition would be carried forward in an approval of the vacation. The condition will govern future operations at the Arena.”
Anne Kawasaki Romero, executive director of the Washington State Public Stadium Authority that oversees CenturyLink Field operations on taxpayers’ behalf, alleged that Hansen’s new street-vacation petition is misleading on scheduling.
She wrote that Hansen’s petition “suggests that it has finalized an events-scheduling agreement with the two existing venues (CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field). Unfortunately, that assertion overstates the current situation.”
She also wrote that a binding deal and additional environmental review by the city must occur before the city acts on Hansen’s petition.
“It is not acceptable to defer these critical operational questions to an undetermined date in the future.”
Mariners lawyer Melody McCutcheon stated that the transportation department should order a supplemental environmental review of the entire Sodo project and a full evaluation of alternative KeyArena options before any recommendation on a new Occidental vote.
McCutcheon wrote that the current scheduling deal was rendered “moot” after Hansen lost an Occidental vote last May and is too basic to proceed further. “It was always understood — by everyone — that those basic parameters would have to be developed into a separate, much more detailed, enforceable agreement,’’ her letter states.
Sounders chief operating officer Bart Wiley also wrote that the initial scheduling deal was merely “baseline” and not enforceable. Wiley wants a binding deal imposed before Hansen’s project advances any further and suggested the city might require additional study and reporting on Sodo-area traffic impacts.
The Sounders had not commented on the proposed arena until now. Wiley wrote that the team supports having NBA and NHL teams here, but noted its own plans are to increase average attendance from 44,000 to 65,000 in coming seasons.
“There is a place in Seattle for all five major sports franchises, and planning for that future is one important track,’’ he wrote.
All three sports ownerships stated that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Sodo project, released in May 2015, is either lacking in scope or accuracy.
First & Goal vice president Young wrote the FEIS failed to consider non-sporting events at CenturyLink and Safeco Fields that would overlap NBA and NHL games. Young said the team has no position for now on whether the arena should be located in Sodo or at Seattle Center.
Mariners lawyer McCutcheon stated that the FEIS estimate of only 130 pedestrians using the block of Occidental after Mariners games is “blatantly wrong’’ and that an independent expert hired by the team showed 2,800 is more accurate.
McCutcheon wrote that the FEIS based its pedestrian analysis on a single May 2013 game in which the Mariners drew one of their lower crowds in franchise history, 12,936. She added that the team’s average attendance of 31,995 since Safeco Field opened in 1999 is much higher.
Sounders COO Wiley wrote the FEIS fails to appreciate differences in pregame and postgame travel between his team’s fans and those of the Mariners. “The vast majority of our fans arrive late,’’ he wrote. “Within the final twenty minutes before kickoff.’’
Hansen’s petition must be forwarded to the council for a new vote, which wouldn’t likely happen until next fall. The city is first exploring whether any of two proposed KeyArena renovations for NBA and NHL could work before forwarding a recommendation to Mayor Ed Murray by late June.
After that, the council could have to choose between a KeyArena remodel or Hansen’s revised, all-private Sodo project.
Two groups have submitted proposals to the City of Seattle to renovate KeyArena.