Seattle mayor, council candidates talk KeyArena, SODO arena

KeyArena (Photo: KING)
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Seattle’s executive and legislative branches will look different before a significant vote on the future of KeyArena.

That’s why the candidate comments on the proposal and another in SODO will likely be dissected before Election Day.  All six candidates for mayor and the council spoke about it at length at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Thursday night.

Incumbent Lorena Gonzalez, who voted against a SODO arena proposal last year and is running for re-election, indicated there is only one proposal in front of the city right now. 

“I do believe the KeyArena proposal that is working its way through the city council right now is an important one. Seattle Center is a city asset; it's an important one for us to make sure we're taking care of and continue to invest in,” she said in response to a question from the moderator, KING5’s Natalie Brand.  “The SODO arena deal is not ready for us to consider, yet.  I think that I expressed some concerns about that particular proposal back in May of 2016. I'm waiting to see if those issues have been addressed, particularly around transportation impact, and some public benefit issues.  I'm excited about seeing a potential package from our SDOT and Design Review Commission that addresses the issues that many of us, five of us, on the city council expressed back in May.”

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Her opponent in the District 9 citywide race, Pat Murakami, cast a different opinion that perhaps there is room for two Arenas in the City of Seattle. 

“I'd like to see KeyArena redone and support hockey and the Storm.  I think that SODO is a better place to put basketball.  We already have the infrastructure there with parking structures.  We can resolve some of the issues with moving freight and moving traffic by adding an off-ramp. Chris Hansen has offered to add a ramp at his cost.  And with regard to Occidental, we can slightly lower the street and build the arena over the street. There are outside the box solutions that we can use to make it work there,” said Murakami. 

However, Murakami, who is a small business owner and community activist, also said she prefers SODO for one reason.

“The SODO group is locally based and I'd like to see more investment stay in our city, instead of an outside group that's proposing the KeyArena deal,” he said.

If Gonzalez is re-elected, she could cast a vote in December.  That’s when the council and mayor’s office has indicated they would like a definitive word on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Oak View Group for a new arena at Seattle Center.  It is also with Hansen’s SoDo deal expires with the city.

The other council position, District 8, will also be able to vote in December, based on the City Hall events of the last few months.  Tim Burgess announced he would not seek re-election, but since he has since moved into the mayor’s office, his vacated seat will only be held temporarily until the election results are certified in November.  That means Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda’s could carry some weight in the decision.

“I prefer the KeyArena deal. When I was a kid, I used to watch the Sonics play in KeyArena,” Grant told the attendees. “You can have a basketball arena in only so many places, but we only have one port.  I think it's important we protect the maritime industry and maritime jobs that are down there.  Those are family wage jobs.” 

His position has been unwavering on this issue on the campaign trail.

Mosqueda said, “I have three principles. Number one we should have no public dollars invested in this, number two, we have to mitigate for the impact on transit. and number three we have to make sure our industries are protected.” 

She added that the focus on KeyArena “is critical, it's a public good, it's a public asset - we have to renovate this beautiful area”

"We need it to be revenue generating, and in order to do so, we must upgrade it,” he said. 

However, she also indicated she is interested in hearing more about the SODO plan. 

“However, if the conversation moves forward around SODO as well, I don't think one necessarily needs to be pitted against the other as long as there are no public dollars, doesn't impact our industry, and that it doesn't impact our transit,” she said.

Both mayoral candidates also weighed in, with one throwing stones at a potential partner in the KeyArena deal.  Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon will also take over after the election results are certified, due to the resignation of Ed Murray.

When Durkan was asked about the issue, she said, “We have a great opportunity here. I think we have a great opportunity to redevelop part of our city to get back major sports....Transportation and transit challenges, make sure those are addressed.” 

She said the public cannot pay for any deal and “we have to protect the industrial lands.”

Moon hinted she strongly prefers the KeyArena site over SODO.

“I would like to make KeyArena work, and I want to really applaud City Council and the awesome women who stood up for making the Arena work, and keep going down that path,” said Moon. 

However, she took a shot at Live Nation, which has been listed as an equity partner in the OVG bid to rebuild the site. 

“Live Nation can really do harm to the local music industry, so I want to make sure we get the deal right with Live Nation. But I would like to support making KeyArena work  'cause we need to protect industrial land, and we have to preserve that for family wage jobs.”

The current City Council will hold a public forum on the KeyArena proposal next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.