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Seattle City Council Approves Key Arena Redevelopment Plan

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
The iconic sloped roof of KeyArena, center, a sports and entertainment venue at the Seattle Center, is seen from above Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Seattle.

Nearly a decade after the SuperSonics left Seattle because of lack of funding for a new arena, the city has a deal it hopes will eventually bring the NBA back.

The Seattle City Council voted 7-1  on Monday to accept an offer from the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group to redevelop KeyArena.

The agreement is for$600 million in privately financed improvements of the outdated facility at Seattle Center. The Oak View Group plans to open the upgraded arena by 2020.  

Leaders are hoping this will make the city a strong contender first for a National Hockey League Team. The NHL has franchises in Calgary and Arizona that may be looking for new homes. An NBA team could come along later.

Seattle retains ownership of the land and will get a guaranteed minimum of the revenues. OVG has promised to cover any cost overruns on the renovations.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel says it’s a good deal for the city, but real questions remain about KeyArena’s location.

“The traffic patterns, the parking in a very dense urban village that’s only getting busier – is it going to be able to accommodate these people?  Clearly, Oak View Group thinks it will happen,” Thiel said, adding that no one will know for sure until the arena re-opens in 2020. “But they’re throwing a whole lot of money at it,” he said.   

In addition to the $600 million for redevelopment, Oak View has pledged to spend $40 million on a city transportation fund to mitigate traffic and parking.

The deal likely ends developer Chris Hansen’s plans for an arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood because of an exclusivity clause in the Key Arena agreement.  Also, Hansen's five year Memorandum of Understanding expired Sunday, so he no longer has an official stake in the game. But he still holds 12 acres of SoDo, which he paid $125 million to acquire. He said he plans to hang on to the land, in case the deal with Oak View Group falls through.  

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to