SODO arena group offers to privately finance KeyArena renovation

Renderings of KeyArena renovation plans from the SODO arena group. Photos: HOK.

A new arena in Seattle should open with a poker game, given the amount of cards that have been played in this saga.

On Thursday, SODO arena investor Chris Hansen and his team played a hand in a high stakes battle to complete his transaction.

Hansen's group, in a 10-page letter, told the Seattle City Council it is offering to pay for a privately-financed reconstruction of KeyArena into a new multi-use facility.

Hansen's proposal, which includes designs from architect HOK, says the building can be divided into a new 6,200-seat indoor concert venue on one side and 3,000-seat outdoor covered amphitheater on the other.

The concert facility would face KEXP, and the open-air amphitheater would face the Seattle Center fountain.
HOK has done work on the SODO arena project and multiple other sports venues, including the recently opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Hansen's group says it would raise the floor to add 500 permanent parking stalls, and the smaller footprint would "help reduce negative impacts" from alternative proposals. 

HOK suggested the renovations could be done for $100 million. Hansen's group says they will pay for it all.

The written offer comes just days before the Seattle City Council is expected to receive a tentative Memorandum of Understanding on a deal between the Oak View Group and the city to build at $564 million arena on the KeyArena site.  OVG has suggested it will be a project that can house an NBA and NHL franchise.

Transportation mitigation is seen as a significant factor in whether the council approves the MOU.

Hansen has been working for more than five years to get a new arena built in SODO and has purchased more than $125 million in property for the project, south of Safeco Field.  He's been waiting on a street vacation approval for a one-block stretch of Occidental in order to proceed.

His partner, one-time Seattle Sonics owner and GM Wally Walker, said Thursday the offer was "reflective of people talking about their concerns with KeyArena being a white elephant with a new SODO arena built." 

Walker says they sought professional expertise, and "asked them to be creative." Walker also says that his group's feedback says that 90 percent of concerts want a 6,000-seat venue, and that Seattle is lacking for that type of facility. 

"This would be the sweet spot," he said.

Walker also said his group would do the work after construction of the SODO arena is complete.

The Seattle Office of Economic Development issued a press release Thursday regarding the proposal from the SODO Arena Group to renovate KeyArena:

"Oak View Group’s proposal was the strongest of the two, so they were selected. If the SODO Arena Group was interested in redeveloping KeyArena, they should have submitted their proposal during the RFP process, which would have shown a willingness to work with the City on this project. They did not submit a proposal and continue to show no interest in working in partnership with the City."

"We are well underway negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oak View Group, and plan to transmit the MOU to Seattle City Council shortly. We are excited about the future of the Seattle Center Arena and grateful private investors are committed to investing more than half a billion dollars in a venue designed to attract the NBA, NHL and outstanding music and entertainment."

Photos: Renderings of Seattle Center concert hall and amphitheater

© 2017 KING-TV


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