SEATTLE – Vague statements and elected officials continue to fuel speculation that the NHL is prepared to award an expansion franchise to Seattle.
But there are multiple factors which still may hold up any proposal, and one of them has stalled or slowed considerably down.
The Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, considered the last major hurdle for the proposed arena project is not scheduled to be completed soon. The Draft EIS was issued in August 2013 and is studying the impacts to the Seattle SoDo neighborhood, Key Arena/Seattle Center, and a no build option. City leaders have suggested it would be done much sooner and, according to one source, told Mayor Ed Murray’s transition team in November that it would be done this month. The Seattle City Council and King County Council still need to review the document before it issues final transaction documents for Chris Hansen’s proposed $490 million NBA/NHL Complex. King County Councilman Reagan Dunn told 950 KJR that the EIS should be done sometime “next month.”
However, the city’s Department of Planning and Development says that timeline is not accurate and it is still waiting on Hansen’s group to submit more documentation.
“The final EIS likely won't be available any earlier than the end of summer,” says Bryan Stevens, of DPD. “We've asked for some updates on the traffic analysis, location of parking during event days, and examples for how impacts could be mitigated along South Holgate Street.”
Stevens also acknowledges that the timeline has changed. “The schedule is an estimate based on how quickly we receive information from the applicant. While we did state a final EIS could have been ready at the end of the month, that date has been pushed back based on the need for additional information.”
Sources close to the Hansen group have also suggested, in the past few weeks, that they can easily provide the answers and speed up the timeline. Hansen has been unavailable for comment. It is likely that the final EIS will also face a legal challenge from a least one group opposed to the construction of an Arena.
The NHL, according to those people connected to current discussions, has been waiting for months for some sort of clarity on the Seattle arena situation and whether the city and King County would be amenable to altering the Memorandum of Understanding to allow an NHL team to prompt construction. NHL leaders, like Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, have publicly stated they are willing to have a team play in Key Arena for at least a couple of seasons. The NHL nearly moved the Phoenix Coyotes franchise to Seattle last June before the last minute approval of a new lease deal in the desert.
The approved Seattle MOU specifically calls for the EIS and an NBA team to prompt the financing and allow for construction to begin.Hansen’s deal to bring the NBA’s Kings to Seattle was rejected by the league in May 2013.
As Stevens says now, “The ball is in the applicant's court.”