OLYMPIA, Wash. – Lawmakers at the State Capitol are talking about a new sports arena for the first time in nearly a decade.
Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, called for the work session in front of his Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee.
"There is a strong statewide interest in bringing the Sonics back to Seattle," said Baumgartner. "I remember the Glove and Shawn Kemp as much as a kid growing up in downtown Seattle."
The Spokane Republican says he believes the state could help with infrastructure, permitting, and break the "standstill" in Seattle.
His committee was briefed by staffers on arena and stadium history in Washington state, as well as privately financed arenas in other parts of the country. Senators viewed KING 5 stories for background on the current situation in Seattle, including at KeyArena and in SODO.
Baumgartner says it will be one of three hearings on the subject. He says he invited SODO arena backer Wally Walker to testify Thursday, but he could not due to a scheduling conflict. Instead, two members of the maritime community testified, including the Northwest Seaport Alliance's Kurt Beckett and ILWU local VP and SODO arena critic John Persak.
Beckett says he believes SODO could not handle additional traffic from an arena, and that adding another building would be "like encouraging a heart patient to have another Twinkie."
Persak echoed the statements, but was put on the spot by Baumgartner, who asked Persak why he thought Seattle Center would be any better given the lack of transportation connections. Persak claimed Sound Transit light rail would help and bus lines would help. King County Executive Dow Constantine, who has chaired the Sound Transit board, is on record saying that SODO is a better location because of existing light rail and increased connections with ST3.
Developers are expected to respond to the KeyArena Request for Proposals by April 12. On Thursday, the Seattle Mayor's Office said Mayor Ed Murray had a "good conversation" earlier in the week with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about the status of both sites. However, the NBA could not immediately confirm the details of the conversation.