Seattle City Council Convenes Committee To Dig Into Arena Proposals | KNKX

Seattle City Council Convenes Committee To Dig Into Arena Proposals

Mar 28, 2017

The Seattle City Council is starting to ask questions about a potential new arena.

There are two possibilities at play. The first option is a privately-financed stadium in the SoDo neighborhood. The second is the redevelopment of KeyArena.

Both options will require council action in the coming months, leading to the creation of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas. The committee met for the first time Monday.

The committee comprises all nine members of the council. At its first meeting, city staff briefed the seven members who attended on what the council can expect to consider.

KeyArena

Mayor Ed Murray put out a call for proposals to redevelop the 55-year-old city-owned arena in January. Those proposals are due April 12.

The committee is expected to review those proposals throughout the spring before the mayor makes a selection in July.

But there are complicating factors to the KeyArena renovation that the city will have to contend with.

First, the call for proposals is very broad. Potential developers are not explicitly required to propose an NBA- or NHL-ready stadium. 

That led council members to ask several questions about what the city's priorities are and how money should be spent on the redevelopment.

"One, what would it cost if it becomes something for NBA and hockey? And what would it cost if we retain it not for professional sports?" asked Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.

Bagshaw noted the arena could still be used for school sports, but it could also be upgraded technologically as a space for business conferences or other large events.

Potential landmark status for KeyArena and other buildings in the development zone could also complicate an eventual renovation. 

The landmark nomination process is separate from the redevelopment proposal process. They have different timelines, but both involve the city council.

KeyArena hasn't officially be nominated yet. In the mayor's call for proposals, he asks developers to take potential landmark status into consideration.

But Councilmember Mike O'Brien pointed out that landmark status can vary on the level of protection.

"How are we expecting folks to respond to a landmark status when we don't know what the status specifics [are]?" O'Brien asked.

City staff said potential developers are being asked to assume they can't completely demolish the building in their proposals, but there is some room for interpretation.

Landmark nomination is expected next week.

As the proposals move forward, the City Council will also be considering legislation around re-zoning in Uptown and dealing with other projects in Seattle Center.

SoDo

The SoDo stadium has been long in the making, starting with a memorandum of understanding between the city, King County, and a group of developers in 2012.

The developers have asked the city to vacate part of Occidental Avenue to begin construction. The City Council rejected a similar petition last year.

The memorandum of understanding is set to expire in December of this year. But staff told the committee that it's not yet known when the petition will come before the council. 

The group financing the project will have to work with Seattle's Department of Transportation and Design Commission before the council can vote on the Occidental Avenue petition.