The Washington State Public Stadium Authority has sent a letter that requests Chris Hansen reach a deal for game scheduling before vacating a street for a proposed arena in Seattle’s Sodo District.
The public body overseeing CenturyLink Field is demanding that the city force entrepreneur Chris Hansen to reach an event scheduling agreement with it before granting him a street to build a proposed Sodo District arena.
A Seattle City Council vote on giving Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South is scheduled for late April or early May. In a letter to the council Monday, the Washington State Public Stadium Authority (PSA) said there has been no attempt by Hansen to address scheduling protocols enabling the arena to function alongside CenturyLink and Safeco fields.
The PSA says Hansen’s company, Washington Sports Properties, should be compelled to reach scheduling agreements before being given Occidental, or the city should impose clear operational conditions on the arena.
“Absent such conditions, the proposed arena, which itself relies on $200 million in public funds, could threaten the viability of nearly $1 billion in existing public investment (CenturyLink and Safeco Field) in the Stadium District and overburden the surrounding neighborhoods,’’ the letter stated.
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Last week, the Mariners sent the council a letter outlining similar concerns.
“Unless the city places scheduling limitations on a Sodo arena, there could be significant events at the arena that conflict with as many as 30-50% of Mariners home games,’’ the Mariners’ letter stated. “If both the arena and Safeco are at or near capacity, a conflict of that nature would be like having a Monday Night Football game 25 or more times each year, with all of the traffic gridlock and challenges that brings.’’
But the Mariners went a step further, questioning whether Sodo is the best place for an arena and urging the city to look at remodeling its existing KeyArena facility. It says a report last year by the AECOM architectural firm stating that KeyArena can be overhauled for NBA and NHL use for $285 million, should be incorporated within a revised environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Sodo project before Occidental is given up.
Such a move could delay the Sodo project indefinitely.
Unlike the Mariners, the PSA says it does not necessarily oppose an arena in Sodo. But it says numerous attempts to open a scheduling dialogue with Hansen since 2013 have gone unanswered.
The stadium authority says scheduling agreements are needed to avoid traffic chaos in the surrounding neighborhood on days when arena games coincide with events at CenturyLink and Safeco. It also says the EIS on Hansen’s proposed arena inadequately addressed the impact that adding NBA and NHL games would have on CenturyLink Event Center’s winter trade-show lineup.
“These shows … are scheduled in the winter (January to March) specifically to avoid overlapping with any professional sports events,’’ the letter states.
The letter says the trade show’s vendors and exhibitors don’t want to deal with excess traffic and higher parking rates on game days. It says they also rely on Occidental for parking, staging and Century Link access at all hours and would lose that if the city gives up that part of the street.
The PSA says any loss in revenue will have an adverse impact on the 20 percent of event center profits contributed annually to the state’s common school fund — $3 million to date.
Beyond that, the letter reiterates previous PSA concerns about the adequacy of the EIS and a city transportation department report on mitigation needed to reduce traffic and parking problems. The PSA says most of the mitigation is “vague and discretionary” and must be finalized before Hansen is issued a permit to build his arena.
“The arena is not a purely private endeavor,’’ it stated. “It relies on $200 million in public funds. Consequently, it should be required to engage with and address the concerns of its neighbors and neighborhoods.’’
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hansen, the city and King County provides up to $200 million in bond funding for the $500 million arena if he lands an NBA team.
To date, the NBA insists expansion is unlikely to be considered before the November 2017 expiration of the MOU. But proponents of Hansen’s plan argue the NBA could accelerate expansion plans if a “shovel ready” arena deal where permission to build has been granted — a process requiring Occidental be vacated.
Opponents of the Sodo arena and additional related development planned by Hansen for surrounding streets — including the Port of Seattle, maritime unions and the Mariners — say the project will have an adverse impact on the entire district. They contend state law requires the city to properly assess alternative sites — including KeyArena — before favoring the Sodo location.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has said the city is legally obligated to follow through on its deal with Hansen and cannot entertain KeyArena offers.
The Sodo EIS said a KeyArena remodel was considered but dismissed because the floor plate was too small to meet NBA and NHL standards. But the city-commissioned AECOM report suggested otherwise and said KeyArena could be refurbished similar to more modern, smaller-sized NBA venues like the one being built in Sacramento.