Early spring for Seattle arena decision, mayor says

Seattle mayor Ed Murray talks about the updated, privately-financed SoDo Arena proposal and a proposed plan to improve KeyArena.

SEATTLE - Mayor Ed Murray says he's now targeting early spring for a decision on the future of KeyArena and the SoDo Arena proposal.

Murray explained Tuesday the decision to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the wake of a privately financed arena offer from the Chris Hansen-led SoDo group.

"The Hansen group knew we were going to proceed with KeyArena anyway," said Murray about the events of the past week.

He told KING 5 the "SoDo still has a huge hurdle in the council," and that he believes, they want to answer the Seattle Center question first.

"If an entertainment center can work there, we need to know that. If it can't, we need to understand an arena will happen somewhere else," Murray said about the decision to issue the RFP this coming January.

AEG and the Oak View Group, led by former AEG Chair Tim Leiweke have been identified as potential bidders.  Murray said Tuesday, "I don't know much about them, that's why we do an RFP."  But he added, about their interest, "I believe it is in the area of a massive reconstruction, or remodel, but not a complete teardown. But again, we need to see their proposals like we need to see the Hansen group's proposal for SoDo."

Murray added that, despite proclamations last week about taking up another SoDo street vacation vote in December or January, "I don't believe, based on my conversations with the council, they will entertain the SoDo site until we've answered questions about KeyArena."

The mayor says the decision to move forward on dual paths is driven by a need to discuss the future of Seattle Center and solve the SoDo questions once and for all. He recently commissioned a task force to study Seattle Center, a potential re-use of Memorial Stadium, KCTS building, and adjacent parking garages.

"My hope is we can find a future for KeyArena. Who knows? If an arena doesn't work there, maybe someone wants to offer a lot of money to build a school there for the school district or renovate the stadium. Lots of moving pieces here," said Murray, And he isn't ruling out the SoDo site and offer.

"If that's the place we need to go, that agreement needs to be opened up again, and we need to find a way this time to bring everybody together because I'm not going to send a proposal to the council where everyone is fighting each other like last time."

One of the "moving pieces" could be the outcome of Sound Transit 3.  If approved by voters next week, it could add a new station at Seattle Center within the next 20 years.  Even if that's the case, King County Executive Dow Constantine said last week SoDo is a better location for an arena than Seattle Center, due to all the different transportation connections.

Murray bristled at the suggestion.

"The King County Executive is not responsible for Seattle Center. The King County Executive doesn't have to take this proposal back to the council to get a street vacation, so we're going to do our due diligence and look at both proposals because the King County Executive isn't left with the current liability at KeyArena," said Murray.

Murray added that the anger over the council's decision last May to reject Hansen's petition for a street vacation has been "incredibly destructive. He added "What happened there, plays off the rather poisonous political discussion on a national level and we have significant work to do to repair that and tell a different story.  Regrettably, a group of fans have done a lot of damage to the larger fan base."

Murray says there is only one thing which may change all of the debate overnight.
"If someone actually has a team and the NBA has changed their mind, I think this gets a lot easier," said Murray, "I think this would quickly solve itself."

Copyright 2016 KING


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