Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Chuck S Richards and Richard Bollinger some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

Let's get real: The arena will kill KeyArena

With the SODO arena deal primed and ready, it's time we got serious about what it will mean for KeyArena.
Architect Paul Thiry, a proponent of modernism, designed the original Seattle Center Coliseum, now called KeyArena: This is structure as sculpture.

Architect Paul Thiry, a proponent of modernism, designed the original Seattle Center Coliseum, now called KeyArena: This is structure as sculpture. Lawrence W. Cheek

The growing support for the $490 million arena deal brokered with investor Chris Hansen by the Seattle City Council, Mayor McGinn and Executive Constantine is exciting. While most of us genuinely want a new generation Sonics team to return to our city, nearly all want to ensure taxpayers are not footing the bill or assuming inappropriate risk.

As a legislator representing much of the waterfront, links to downtown, the Seattle Center – the heart of tourism in our city – and much of the Port of Seattle area, I give the plan on the table a solid B+. It’s absolutely essential that the city council take one more step forward to make it an A+.

Fortunately, the power to take the final step rests exclusively in the hands of the city council and mayor and is not dependent upon Hansen.

First, let’s proudly acknowledge that the deal is exceptional: It changes the game nationally relative to ending limitless public subsidy of professional sports facilities. It is not, however, as strong as portrayed relative to the city’s lack of commitment internally to focus on the future of Seattle Center.

The ‘externalities’ of effects of the proposed arena on the transportation and freight infrastructure of SoDo (any serious expectation that the location will be anything other than SoDo is pure folly – this is largely a real estate play) have been well captured. There is an acceptable plan in place and the ecosystem of partners is ‘in the game’ to ensure our city recognizes the long-term economic issues inherent in our industrial lands.

Here’s a big unaddressed problem: The ‘externality’ of the negative effect on Seattle Center by ending the useful life of Key Arena is the weak link. The language in the proposal to study the future of Key Arena punts on any meaningful commitment that recognizes the reality on the ground. Key Arena is dead and done the day the new arena opens. The city is effectively handing Hansen a monopoly of economic value in the form of no competition to his new facility, and yet the $7 million reserved from taxes paid during the two years the Sonics will play in Key is a trivial concession.

Is it his obligation to fund a rejuvenation or rebirth of Key Arena in some new fashion? No, but it is the obligation of the city to do more than include flowery, non committal language in the deal that translates into government talk for ‘we’ll see what we can do next time.’

This is the next time.

The city council and mayor have a public obligation to do right by Seattle Center – the entity that feels a direct and painful impact of the policy decision they’ve made – since they are hastening and formalizing the very day when Key Arena’s life comes to an end.

Today Key Arena is break-even and even generates money (about $300K a year plus $1M in parking revenues linked to events) through more than 110 events from Seattle Storm to Elton John, Madonna and other concerts. The day the new arena opens is the day Key Arena’s life ends as those events shift to Hansen’s venue. The useful life of Key Arena is coming to end at some point anyway, on some level, but under the new plan the fat lady is now walking on stage and will likely arrive in about 24 months.

My hope and request is that the city council and mayor double down on their formal and informal commitment to the future of Seattle Center and not pretend that the externalities of the arena decision are not directly linked.

Specifically, I believe the current plan can be dramatically improved by dedicating the same amount of emotional and political energy to the long-term interests of Seattle Center for the next 50 years that we’ve dedicated to this arena deal itself. Doesn’t the heart of our city – which brings in millions of tourists a year, hosts major events, connects our community and more – deserve at least that same level of commitment?


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 1:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Cayryle, you are my representative. I'll say to you what I've said to the rest: I consider you a typical corrupt "progressive" phony. Not that it matters, because your new best friend billionaire and his money outweighs everything else. But please don't come to us and cry poor about state finances, because that will be just one more blatant lie from you and your kind.

There is no financial problem in this state. Not when we have $200 million to give to your favorite rich guy, plus another $150 million to future bondholders. As as far as I'm concerned, the city and the state are rolling in money, so I truly hope you won't be coming to us at a future date with some sob story about how there;'s no money.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 5:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Key Arena no doubt will be the venue of NBA games until Hansen's new Sodo arena is open for business. That will be more use than it otherwise would have received in the next few years. Good luck with finding public funding for Seattle Center equal to that being
allocated to the other public functions you list. Most have clear priority over a Center fixup, unless you anticipate a near-term economic boom generating tax revenues not presently available.

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 7:32 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a great perspective. Thanks for laying out the challenge and opportunity that these changes represent for the Seattle Center. It's hard to imagine lower Queen Anne without the Coliseum (oops), the need to do it now -- before it becomes an eyesore and unconscionable drain on the city.

TylerP

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

As a fiscal conservative and cheapskate I would support a renovated Memorial Stadium (new grandstands, real seats, better sight lines) and a continuation of Key Arena for use by K-12 private and public education schools, Seattle Pacific, Seattle University, community colleges, Seattle Storm, and all other existing Seattle Center events. Estimated price tag: $125,000,000.

animalal

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, let's get real about the Seattle Center. Even when the old Sonics were playing flat out, the Seattle center as a whole was a totally underutilized space with many of the facilities empty for most of the year. There are a lot of activities on its periphery but aside from the Folk Festival and Bumbershoot, nothing happens in its core that requires a public facility of its size. As a result the blocks around the Seattle Center are relatively sleepy and with a few exceptions not a particularly attractive destinations for restaurants or shopping.

The city cannot move forward with an economically viable plan to rejuvenate the Seattle Center until somebody comes up with one. There have been various efforts to solicit ideas but as of yet I have not seen anything that strikes me as particularly compelling. The author specific suggestions for the Key Arena seem to illustrate the problem. A specialty K-12 STEM school, public sports facility or community center would all contribute to Seattle but why site them in this unique location rather than in the neighborhoods or at one of our much vaunted transit hubs where families actually live. These are just more piecemeal ideas that would contribute to the current hodgepodge where the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

This author wants the council to "walk the walk around showing the public a meaningful commitment to the future of the regional treasure that is Seattle Center" Perhaps he can walk the walk himself and suggest a compelling comprehensive plan. If anybody came up with one that excited interest, I am pretty sure that the Mayor and the City Council would move flat out on implementing it. After all that would be an awful lot more worthwhile than sticking in a few trolley lines here and there which seems to be the present activity du Jour of our underemployed city leaders.

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Compared to an urban neighborhood the Center isn't heavily used. But compared to a park it sure is. The Center isn't perfect but it's pretty damn good.

mhays

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 11:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Maybe it is okay to leave it as it is but most times I use it, I drive or take the bus, use one facility and then go home. I think the studies show that this is how most people use it. There is relatively little synergy between the components which would arguably generate more economic activity if they were distributed around the city.

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 2:02 p.m. Inappropriate

It's becoming much more integrated with surrounding neighborhoods. Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, and South Lake Union are all growing quickly, and soon the barriers to South Lake Union will go away. Many more will do as I do today -- stroll through at random times, get takeout there, etc. (Grrrr...the renovation took away Pizza Haven!)

As for the activities, more are coming. Cornish is likely taking the Playhouse, which will serve other organizations as well including the current one. The dead corner at First & Republican is apparently slated to become home to KEXP, including audience uses and an actual entry on both sides.

Personally I'm struck by how much the center ISN'T about big events. Every weekend it's a smorgasborg of events of all sizes. On weekdays it's the stroller set and high-schoolers. Tourists are around all year, even if they're more numerous and more outside (vs. inside) in the summer.

mhays

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

I have a vision of Key Arena being reborn as a shining temple to multiversity. Part will become a much-needed annex for the inevitable expansion of the Chihuly Museum as Seattle once again reasserts its claim (largely undisputed outside Tacoma) to be the pre-eminent capital of High Kitsch. Another part could easily house Paul Allen's incomparable, but currently homeless, collection of original 1940s pinball machines. And there would still be room in the middle somewhere to launch Cher's 17th Farewell World Tour. These components by themselves should combine synergistically to create -- what? Something else, I suppose. I guess maybe we'll just have to wait and see.

woofer

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

The Coliseum (hey, KeyBank's naming rights expired in 2010) has a reputation in the events industry as a very poor facility (acoustics are terrible), in a lousy location. As TVD notes, it will get a lot more use as a temporary home for the NewSonics than it would otherwise, but after that? It's a relic that has outlived its usefulness.

Back when Mr. Brewster owned Seattle Weekly, maps of Seattle Center always made the Coliseum conspicuous by its absence. I guess sports were to lowbrow for the Weekly's pretensions at the time...

orino

Posted Fri, Sep 14, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

It seems a little odd to blame Chris Hansen for the demise of Key Arena. More damning to the Key are the WaMu Theater, Comcast Arena, ShoWare Center and the venerable Tacoma Dome added to that the tribal competition of the Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Snohomish tribes stages and arenas. Key Arena is the oldest of any arena in the area, except the Tacoma Dome. Even if we were to downside it, it would face local competition from the Paramount, McCaw, Benaroya and Alaska Airlines Arena.

Key Arena certainly will get some enhancements for the two years a NBA team will play there, however then it will just sit. I can't imagine the Storm will not be persuaded to move up to a new arena.

Whenever I go to the Seattle Center Key Arena has seemed to be a huge dead zone during outdoor events. Perhaps an outdoor venue should take its place. Maybe a new Memorial Stadium can be built with and bring new life to the Center.

2cents

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 5:23 a.m. Inappropriate

even after the new arena, that is several years away at the earliest, as Hansen does not have a team, the Colesium could be used well: high school, SU, Storm, concerts. demolition alone would be costly. the Key Arena garage on 1st Avenue North is also under used. it could be used for short term parking; the lane space now used for parallel parking on QA and 1st Avenues North could be reused for in-lane stops by transit and bike lanes on the left side of the arterials.

eddiew

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 7:21 a.m. Inappropriate

So, the Sinderman lobbied Seattle City Council raises the public fund amount to the proposal, and lowers Hansen's rent; and this is somehow an exceptional deal. How does that work. The revised MOU is a horrible business deal. So, because some Hansen payed lobbyist, who happens to be friends with Seattle City Council Members, gets the puppet politicians to exclaim "what a great deal", we are all supposed to say it. The deal stinks. Complete tax exemption for Hansen, no profit for Seattle, counting debt service over 400 million dollars of public funds, the deal stinks. I am not playing the framing that Hansen's lobbyist, and puppet politicians, are attempting to create. There is no need to talk about the demise of Key Arena. What needs to be talked about are lobbyed puppet politicians, and Initiatives, Referendums, Charter Amendments, and lawsuits. We do not need to allow Hansen, lobbyed politicians, or the NBA to rip Seattle off.

jhande

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

"Key Arena is dead and done the day the new arena opens."

This is the root of the problem, this idea that Key Arena is somehow alive now. Lady Ga Ga at the Tacoma Dome, Ruven, why do you suppose that concert and those of that size don't use Key Arena and its one ramp to the floor?
They can't get in and then back out fast enough. Art Thiel calls it the Mily Cyrus a-ha moment everyone will have when the EIS turns its attention to that building.

The other problem is that an arena will get built in this market, King County, Seattle being able to get anything out of that situation is a plus. An arena popping up in Bellevue means Key Arena still dies, just, nobody uses an EIS to look more closely at why Key Arena stopped being an option 4 years ago. Seattle would not only get nothing, but would be "giving" in the substitution effect. Lose - Lose.

The fact of the matter is that every politician, including Ruven, have "punted" the discussion about Key Arena down the road since the Seattle Center Master Plan was written, and legislation repeatedly died in Olympia, was ignored by the City of Seattle's Seattle Center Committee (Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw, "chair" = sitting on your ass).

Meanwhile, the "leadership" has closed the door on all of Seattle Center as they turn their attention, and large piles of general fund money, parks money, levies, toward the "Waterfront for All".why? Because Seattle Center is politically deadlocked.
Seattle Center is celebrating its 50 anneversary with urban blight. WoooHoooo!

What has happened to Seattle Center, and Key Arena is political failure. Complaining about it now, is just absurd.

Mr Baker

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 3:46 p.m. Inappropriate

A Bellevue arena would not damage Key Arena as much as an arena less than three miles from Key Arena. A Bellevue arena would damage the Tacoma Dome's business more than Key Arena's.

The 7 million for Key Arena is not 7 million for Key Arena. It is 7 million for either Key Arena, or Hansen's arena. This 7 million comes from taxes. Hansen is involved in deciding what to do with the 7 million. It would end up going to Hansen, not Key Arena.

Any money put into Key Arena would be to primp it up for the NBA. The minute the NBA is not using Key Arena. Hansen will take all the money. Information on how the alleged 7 million can be taken by Hansen is in the revised MOU. The revised MOU says that if Hansen can get Key Arena users to sign up for the new arena, then Hansen gets this 7 million dollars of taxpayer money for his arena. This is your Hansen puppet politicians "great deal".

How does that work anyway? Supposedly, the NBA says that Key Arena stinks, and is not useable for the NBA. Then Hansen says it can be made ready for very little money. The revised MOU does not say that Hansen would pay rent at Key Arena. Taxes collected at Key Arena during the time the NBA would operate there, would go to Hansen, and the taxes would go to the so-called transportation fund. Seattle would lose the ability to collect Seattle taxes, while Key Arena would be used by the non-tax paying, non-rent paying Hansen. This is what is called a "great deal".

The so called 40 million dollar transportation fund is from Seattle taxes, not Hansen.

The revised MOU cuts Hansen's rent at the new proposed arena in half. Hansen gets a 50% reduction in base rent. That change was in the revised MOU. You know, the "great deal" revised MOU, that was rushed to a committee vote after a vacation for Seattle City Council Members in which they either hung out with Hansen at Storm games, or met with their friend, Christian Sinderman, a Hansen payed lobbyist.

The revised MOU increases the public fund up-front money, payed to meet Hansen's demands, from 115-120 million to 140-145 million. This would also raise the public funds that would go to pay debt service on the up-front public funds. The debt service that would be payed with public funds acquired through taxes at Hansen's business operations, was estimated at 168 million dollars with the old 120 million dollar up-front public fund figure. The 168 million dollar figure came from the City Budget Office. The debt service would increase with the revised MOU. Increasing the public fund payment to this proposal makes it a "great deal" according to the Hansen puppet politicians.

25-30 million dollars of Seattle property tax would also be diverted from the Seattle general fund to pay for Hansen's proposed arena. This amount is not reduced with the "great deal" revised MOU.

Hansen would have complete Seattle tax exemption at the arena.The MOU prevents Seattle from sharing in any of the profits at the proposed arena. Seattle gets no profit from the proposed arena. Seattle just pays for the proposed arena, and then covers the taxes that Hansen is exempt from. The Hansen tax exemption did not decrease with the "great deal" MOU.

The "great deal" MOU gains Seattle no profit, only cost. Hansen would get to keep all profit, and all revenue, including taxes. Hansen gets to call tax revenue his own money. Hansen was not elected, but the Hansen payed lobbyist, puppet politicians give Hansen control over taxes. The "great deal" sends more public funds to Hansen. Hansen gets to put the taxes he does not have to pay into his pocket. Hansen then gets to call tax revenue at the proposed arena, Hansen's money. It is all a lie.

The Seattle politicians, who are pushing this proposal, have lied to and misinformed the Seattle Citizenry about the Hansen proposal; ever since the Seattle Times broke the news of the Mayor's secret meetings with Hansen, and the Mayor's hiring of sport's marketing consultants to be at the secret meetings. These consultants were hired in secret.

So, then the Seattle City Council Members start getting their secret meetings with Hansen, and Hansen lobbyists. So, the Arena Principle get turned into the MOU, and the proposal becomes worse business for Seattle; then the MOU gets renegotiated, and the revised MOU is made even worse business. Each time the Seattle City Council Members renegotiate in secret with Hansen lobbyists, the deal becomes worse, and costs the Seattle public more public funds.

It is very dishonorable for the Seattle City Council Members to allow themselves be lobbied by a personal friend, who is payed by Hansen. Sinderman is a Democratic Party insider, and friends with Burgess, and other Members. There is no honor at Seattle City Hall. The PR paying, lobbyist paying Hansen lost any honor he had long ago.

The Council Members said that they did not want a public vote, because they did not want this issue to be political.What the Council Members meant was that they did not want the Seattle Citizen involved in the decision. The only politics the Members wanted were the political representatives of Hansen. The Seattle Citizenry just gets in the way of Money Politics. The only politics these Members wanted was Hansen payed bribery at secret meetings.

The Hansen proposal is for a subsidized welfare arena. It is not a "great deal". It is a corrupt deal.

jhande

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

About the Storm, they are not revenue contributors to Key Arena. So, being worried that they will continue to be a negative number in Key Arena's balance sheet is just not worth discussing.

The dirty Storm secret, they are money losers.

Mr Baker

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 11:39 a.m. Inappropriate

Last Spring Seattle Center borrowed $3 million dollars from the city general fund so it could continue to operate, because revenue is down, in part because the non-profits are not paying their bills.
There is a long term structural problem at Seattle Center.
Key Arena is a symptom of a 72 acre problem.

Mr Baker

Posted Sat, Sep 15, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

3 million dollars is about 120 times less than the loss of public funds to Hansen's welfare arena.

jhande

Posted Sun, Sep 16, 10:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Mr. Baker for pointing out that many major events and concerts for the largest pop artists cannot be held at Key arena because large semis cannot be easily accomodated, unloaded, and reloaded in that facility. Also Barry Ackerly started the death of the arena when he oversaw a remodel that excluded any possibility of NHL hockey. Key arena as others have stated was dead before the SoDo deal, not because of it.

katzjamr

Posted Mon, Sep 17, 5:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Show any documentation that acts bypass Key Arena because of access. There are many huge acts at Key Arena. So, what act specifically backs up your contention? And none of this, "Oh, well Lady Gaga went to Tacoma" nonsense. Did Lady Gaga say that it was impossible for her to play at Key Arena? Madonna is playing at Key Arena, is Lady Gaga's show bigger than Madonna's? Your contention is propaganda with no foundation in sourced truth.

So, Barry Ackerly, who owned an NBA team, with the oversight of the NBA, designed the Key Arena remodel. Ackerly, and the NBA, made sure the design would hamper the NHL. Ackerly, and the NBA, monkeywrenched the Key Arena on purpose, and they got the public to pay for it.

Why reward the NBA for already screwing us.

jhande

Posted Mon, Sep 17, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I can't help but think of the opportunity Seattle passed up about 20 years ago when the Disney company had expressed an interest in developing a plan for the Seattle Center. Of course, the easily panicked classes immediately assumed that this entailed making the Seattle Center into a Disneyland and raised such a stink about their imagined rape and pillage of the Center by base commercial interests that the City of Seattle had to abandon the project before even a proposal was made. Maybe it's time to start thinking along those lines again, that is get people who know what they're doing to make a proposal for the Seattle Center.


And in the process, don't forget the Coliseum's original use: as an exhibit hall. There's no reason that all of the seating can't be pulled out, the original floor on street level restored (along with the undercut support structure) and the area used to house exhibits, trade shows and similar events.

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Sep 17, 8:53 p.m. Inappropriate

We don't need multi-national corporations having control of public assets. Public-private partnerships only benefit politicians, and the private interest. They rarely, if ever, benefit the public. The contention that businessmen/women "know what they're doing" is belied by the bailouts. It is, also, belied by the huge government provided subsidy most large businesses receive. Disney, like Hansen, is only concerned with it's own profits. Disney, like Hansen, would use every trick in the book to "get over" on Seattle in any contract. Disney, like Hansen, would extract wealth from our region, and send it to shareholders through out the world. Disney, like Hansen, does not give a crap about Seattle, or the people who live here.

jhande

Posted Tue, Sep 18, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

See what I mean?

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Sep 19, 3:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, Disney would extract profit from Seattle and return nothing of commensurate value. That is the way of the Hansen proposal, that is the usual way of public-private partnerships. We have seen how honest, and competent that businessmen/women aren't.

So, even though the easily corrupted class hero worships corporations, the public should retain control of public assets.

See, what I mean?

jhande

Posted Wed, Sep 19, 10:26 a.m. Inappropriate

The Disney group is expert at crowd handling, landscaping, architecture and creating people-friendly environments. Not everything they touch turns to commercialism. Seattle could have a pocket-sized Tivoli Gardens in its midst if it had the will to. But Seattle is going to have to bite the bullet and hire people who know what they're doing if it is to come to pass. And there's no transfer of public assets away from the sainted hands of government to the grubby money-changers in Anaheim. We're talking consulting here, not a takeover. But it sounds like there are people in Seattle whose hatred for those who can make their livings from their expertise and competence might be getting in the way of seeing anything other than a worst-case scenario. Too bad. With this attitude, Seattle Center will never be more than "good enough for government work."

dbreneman

Posted Sun, Sep 23, 10:20 p.m. Inappropriate

I do.

Posted Fri, Sep 21, 11:21 a.m. Inappropriate

And then, with no arena, will the Seattle Center (and it's reduced Bumbershoot schedule) be viable any more...it's "money losing" right?

Hey -- idea -- sell it to "private investors" for a song so they can build condos on the prime real estate site.

No..we're doing this for YOU...not for ourselves! Those kids can find another place to play. Heck, I've seen kids play in the street. It's not so bad now that the Mercer Mess has been solved.

Right?

jabailo

Posted Sun, Sep 23, 3:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Exactly, that was the ultimate goal of the Disney effort. The United States popuation has a negative savings rate. That means that there is no more money to get from citizens. So, the large corporations, such as Disney, are seeking ownership of any public asset.

jhande

Posted Sun, Sep 23, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle needs to quit considering subsidizing businesses that damage existant public assets. There has been no effort to have Seattle Center be in the image that the Seattle public wishes. Building a new publicly funded arena, that damages the existant publicly funded arena is just one example.

I know consultants are the big deal down at Seattle City Hall; consultants are a waste of money. What a scam the consultant is; brought in to provide "expertise" supposedly; but really to provide cover for bad governance, and for someone to blame later. Consultants are a waste of money. Consultants, usually, are cronies.

Everything that Disney touches becomes sickeningly commercial, and insultingly cute/trite. It is too bad that individuals in Seattle have such a faith, and belief, in corporations.

jhande

Posted Sun, Sep 23, 10:18 p.m. Inappropriate

So what? I hate Key Arena, and I hate the lack of parking there.

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »