Group says new $600M bid could save KeyArena building

Two developers have submitted over a half billion dollar bids to rebuild KeyArena at Seattle Center. It's a new twist in a more than decade long debate on a new arena in Seattle.

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Oak View Group Chair Tim Leiweke is pitching a privately financed nearly $600 million project at KeyArena.

Leiweke said Wednesday that the project is financially backed by Madison Square Garden and New York Knicks/Rangers owner James Dolan, in additional to Goldman Sachs. He also has agreed to a partnership with Delaware North, for concessions, owned by Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs.  He described music promoter Live Nation as an equity partner.  Those promises, he told KING5, were outlined in a formal proposal submitted today to the City of Seattle.

The project does not touch the existing roof, columns or walls of KeyArena. Instead, he says the group would excavate down 15 feet to create new space for concourses and a full length ice rink. The group would also build an 800 stall garage and eight new loading docks on the south side of the building. KeyArena currently has one loading dock.  The design features a new "Space Needle Bar" on the south side, with views of the iconic structure.

"What you're looking at is building a brand new arena under an old roof," said Leiweke, who also noted part of the offer includes $20 million for charitable causes, with half of that targeted for YouthCare.  

Yet, he acknowledged there were doubts his group would be able to pull it off even six weeks ago, when it determined the only way to build out a loading area was to tunnel underneath Thomas street.  "Our budget increased dramatically," he says, "Going down and out, so when you add 330-350,000 square feet like we've added to this building, and doing it down underneath street level, excavation is expensive and we know that."

He noted that his group will not see direct financial contributions from the City, although existing tax rebates given to other sports complexes are a request.

Jacobs connection, through Delaware North, is interesting given his position as head of the NHL Board of Governors.  In the past, the Boston Bruins owner has hinted the league could benefit from a team in Seattle.   However, Leiweke stressed there is "not some secret agreement" and it was only a deal for food and beverage.

Of course, transportation is the elephant in the conversation larger than any building itself.  Lance Lopes, who has been leading the local effort, said Wednesday "we have to be much more efficient", with traffic, and noted signalization could help, along with evolving ride sharing technologies and apps.

The bid was turned into the City of Seattle on Wednesday and, along with another from AEG, will be heavily reviewed in coming weeks.

AEG is now teaming up with Hudson Pacific Properties on its KeyArena plan. However, it does not involve a big dig, or massive reconstruction of walls. Instead the duo, which has established a website called SeattleColiseum.com, says it can create a 600,000 square foot building using available space on the south side of KeyArena.

It also says the buildings revenue streams would generate $144 million in additional city revenue over the course of a 30-year-lease. However, in a morning briefing, the companies acknowledged their proposal includes a potential "public financing concept" for its $520 million dollar plan. AEG also said it plans to contribute at least $5 million for transportation infrastructure.

In an interview, AEG's Bob Newman suggested the project could be realized by renovating the "dysfunctional back of house service area".  He also noted that his group, calling themselves Seattle Partners, is not seeking to build another parking garage and would work to synchronize transportation solutions, bicycle, and pedestrian options.  Their proposal also extends the existing roofline.

The City of Seattle, late Wednesday, acknowledged receiving the two bids, and announced there will be a public meeting on the proposals on May 11th at KEXP, from 5pm to 8pm.

© 2017 KING-TV


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