Though a New Mexico group expressed interest in renovating KeyArena for the NBA and NHL, Murray says he’ll honor an agreement with Chris Hansen that runs through 2017 to build an arena in Sodo.

Share story

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he won’t entertain any offers on alternative arena sites to the one proposed by Chris Hansen in the Sodo District.

Murray said Thursday he plans to honor a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hansen that expires at the end of 2017 and will not listen to proposals on overhauling KeyArena or any other location within the city.

“We entered into an agreement — the city did before I got here — and I said that I would honor that agreement,’’ Murray said. “This may not have been our first choice, how this was agreed upon, but … legally we have to honor it.’’

Murray was responding to this week’s Seattle Times story about a New Mexico-based investment group, M.T. Phoenix, that wrote to him in late July offering to explore paying for an overhaul of KeyArena to make it NHL- and NBA-compatible. The offer was revealed in documents obtained by The Seattle Times from the mayor’s office in response to a public-records request.

Seattle native Christopher Brozovich, a vice president with M.T. Phoenix, said in an interview Wednesday that he has never heard back from Murray about the offer. Brozovich said his partners shelved the idea soon after and moved on to other projects but remain open to exploring a KeyArena overhaul if the city ever writes them back.

Murray says the city will put out a call for bids if it decides to look at alternative sites and figures out ahead of time what it wants from a relationship with private developers.

“The city initiates these conversations and doesn’t simply respond to companies that contact us,’’ he said.

“To spend a lot of money on an alternative future that may never happen — because this (Hansen) future might happen — I think would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. I think the redevelopment of KeyArena and a bunch of other exciting opportunities around Seattle Center are really, really important. But they’re not going to be easy to finance.

“And the idea that someone just suddenly shows up and out of the goodness of their heart can finance everything that we want I think is really questionable. If that were true, then KeyArena would have been solved years ago.’’

The MOU between the city, King County and Hansen expires at the end of 2017. It provides up to $200 million in bond funding toward a Sodo project estimated at $490 million, but only if Hansen first lands an NBA team.

The NBA has told Murray and others that there are no immediate plans to expand or relocate teams to Seattle. Murray expressed doubt in January that an NBA team could be secured here before the MOU expires.

“I have indicated my concern that that may not happen in the time given,’’ Murray said Thursday. “But I am not legally going to turn around, nor am I going to start entering into discussions until this agreement sees itself through.’’

Murray says his office is proceeding with a schedule that he put out for completing the MOU’s steps. A crucial part involves a City Council vote — likely early next year — on closing part of Occidental Avenue South to accommodate the arena’s plans.

He said his office had received legal advice on the MOU, but he wouldn’t go into details.

In late June, a city-commissioned report on KeyArena revealed that it could be overhauled to meet NHL and NBA requirements for $285 million. It had been previously thought the arena was too small for either league and would have to be razed and rebuilt.

Brozovich said Wednesday that M.T. Phoenix reviewed the report and agreed with its conclusions. Brozovich then contacted Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess and discussed his group’s interest in possibly funding the overhaul.

At Burgess’ suggestion, Brozovich sent a letter, which was forwarded to the mayor’s chief of staff, Chris Gregorich, on July 21.

Brozovich said he tried contacting Gregorich but got no response. He said M.T. Phoenix remains interested in KeyArena.

Murray said there could come a point when his office decides to break the MOU if a better offer comes along. But he says that isn’t the case now and he has no plans to explore the legality of such a step.

For now, he said, Sodo remains the best arena location not only in the city, but in all of King County. He noted that part of Hansen’s plan involves spending to upgrade KeyArena.

“I have not asked for the MOU to be broken,’’ he said. “I was clear when I came into office that … I would honor the MOU. And we are honoring the MOU.”