Brian Robinson of Sonics Rising and John Barr of NHL to Seattle were among 13 invited by the city to join a group that will evaluate plans to convert the arena into an NBA/NHL facility. The city is negotiating with the Oak View Group’s proposal to overhaul of the facility.
Two founding members of websites devoted to bringing professional basketball and hockey to Seattle have been named to a community advisory group on a KeyArena renovation.
Brian Robinson of Sonics Rising and John Barr of NHL to Seattle were among 13 members invited by the city to join the advisory group, which will help evaluate plans to convert the arena into an NBA and NHL facility. The city is negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG), which has proposed a $564 million overhaul of the 55-year-old facility.
“I’ve always felt it was important for the fans to be well-represented,’’ Robinson, who runs a property-management company, said Thursday. “At this point, having done this for 10 years basically … I just felt like I could contribute.’’
A city news release said the group will help ensure a remodeled arena connects well with the surrounding neighborhood and that adequate traffic mobility and parking are included in any plan. It’s also to “partner” with the city on developing labor agreements that support current and future workers and are inclusive of women and minorities.
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The committee is to last throughout the permitting and environmental-review process until a final agreement is struck. The OVG proposal must still be accepted by the Seattle City Council, which is also reviewing a second, all-private-funded proposal by entrepreneur Chris Hansen to build a $600 million arena in the city’s Sodo District.
Robinson’s website once heavily favored Hansen’s proposal, an initial version of which sought up to $200 million in public-bond funding but was stalled by a city-council vote in May 2016. In recent months, Sonics Rising has published articles imploring readers to be more open-minded in looking at all arena options — including the OVG proposal — on the table.
“I try not to be pro either side. I’m pro of bringing the Sonics back,” Robinson said. “That’s been my deal, and I think sometimes you get new information. And I think looking at the KeyArena before it had some of the world’s largest arena developers involved is different than looking at it right now.
“They clearly have answered some of the questions and seem like really legitimate prospects, and so it’s worth another look.”
Barr said he was thrilled to be included on the panel, given the NHL hasn’t always been at the forefront of this city’s arena discussions. But it’s widely believed that an NHL expansion franchise would be awarded here ahead of an NBA team if a deal between OVG and the city is struck.
“I’m excited that they’re thinking about hockey and the hockey community, because it feels like we’ve been not driving the bus if you will,” said Barr, a business-intelligence consultant working with companies on data analytics. “ … I know we’re much smaller than the Sonics community, but with all signs pointing towards NHL potentially coming here first, it’s great that they’re looking at the hockey community.”
Like Robinson, Barr had been strongly in favor of the Hansen group’s previous proposal to build a Sodo arena. Barr even spoke in support of the Sodo arena during a public hearing at city hall before the May 2016 vote in which Hansen sought permission to buy part of Occidental Ave. S. to complete his arena land acquisitions.
“I’ve been obviously following the arena saga in Seattle for about six or seven years through NHL to Seattle,” he said. “I’ve always tried to be level-headed with this thing and tried not to get too emotional about any of this.”
A self-described “big fan of the Uptown neighborhood” around KeyArena, he wants to ensure the area gets the best results possible from any deal between OVG and the city.
“I’d love to help in any way I can,” he said.
Others named to the panel include Robert Cardona and Deborah Frausto, both executive members with the Uptown Alliance community group.
Additional group members include Ollie Garrett, president of the Tabor 100 entrepreneurs association; Monty Anderson of the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council; and Andrea Caupain, CEO of the Centerstone energy assistance program.
Brian Curry of the Seattle Center Advisory Committee, Evan Clifthorne of Project Belltown, Nicole Grant of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, Jane Zalutsky of the Seattle Center Foundation, Sarah Wilkie of the Seattle International Film Festival and Mike McQuaid of the South Lake Union Community Council also were named.