Mayor, Hansen celebrate as Seattle arena final EIS released

KING 5's Chris Daniels reports.

SEATTLE -- The two-and-a-half years-long environmental review of Chris Hansen's proposed Seattle arena is finally over.

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development on Thursday released the 1,600-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the SoDo site and how it relates to other options in the Seattle region. The review covered topics as broad as the geology of SoDo and Lower Queen Anne to the various transportation issues in the proposed location south of Safeco Field.

The FEIS set a new target date of 2018 to open the arena.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the report was a victory for the project.

"The SODO arena project has just passed another major milestone. The City has met its commitment to complete the EIS process. No major findings stand in the way of arena construction. The City will continue to work with arena developers, the Stadium District and SODO interests on the impacts that were identified during the EIS process. The City can now begin looking ahead to the street vacation and other pieces necessary to move this project forward. We're one step closer to bringing NHL hockey and NBA basketball to Seattle."

The review carefully examined the potential loss of a stretch of Occidental Avenue that would be needed to build an 18-20,000 seat arena at 1700 1st Avenue S. It found that less than 10 trucks a day use the road and that the impact would be negligible.

The street vacation is one of the last remaining votes on the project, before it can become a reality. The design on the building, which would include up to $200 million in private financing, also needs be approved. That could likely happen by June. The city council could vote on the street vacation later in the summer.

Murray has turned into a proponent of the project and has met at least two times with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about bringing a team to Seattle. That's complicated by the fact that the original Memorandum of Understanding, approved in 2012 by the city and King County, would likely need to be altered in some way. The MOU required that an NBA team had to be secured to build the arena.

Murray has indicated he's willing to champion new legislation if someone brings a financial model to the table that makes sense. Victor Coleman, a Los Angeles-based businessman and Vancouver, B.C. native, was once thought to be working with Hansen on a model to begin construction with an NHL team as the first tenant. But he has acknowledged in recent interviews that he has been unable to strike a deal.

The city of Tukwila has also begun an environmental review on a privately financed arena deal, headed by Ray Bartoszek.

King County Executive Dow Constantine told KING5, "I was particularly pleased that the traffic impacts could be mitigated," and stressed that he believed the transit options were the best at the SoDo site. However, he said he was intrigued by the Tukwila option as well.

As far as Constantine was concerned, it was time to start talking about teams. "NHL first is viable, we would love to have NHL hockey in our town," he said.

The Mariners, who have voiced their opposition to the project, declined comment on the FEIS Thursday. Spokesperson Rebecca Hale said the franchise will do a thorough review of the document.

Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman acknowledged, like most people, she had not read the full report. But she said, she was still concerned with the data used to calculate the traffic flow. "There is no way this final EIS for this arena in SoDo has adequately looked at the impact," she said. "Tukwila sounds like a very viable site," added Bowman, who said the Port has offered to fund a feasibility study to look at other sites in the region.

Hansen's group released their own statement celebrating the milestone.

"The long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Seattle Arena has been released and it is a greenlight for us to continue moving forward to finish the remaining work needed for the final construction permits.

"We want to thank the city staff and technical consultants who worked hard to get this document completed and published. It is a major milestone in our journey to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle.

"We also wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate that we remain 100% supportive of the NHL returning to Seattle and playing in the Arena - and are completely open to the prospect of that occurring prior to the NBA. In light of recent speculation, we would just like to clarify that we have sought to be as accommodating as possible in our negotiations with potential NHL partners, with our only major requirements being that such a deal does not jeopardize the process or put the City, County, taxpayers or us in a worse financial position.

"Lastly, we also want to extend our sincere thanks to all of you who have stood by us these past several years. Your support has meant so much to us and made a huge impact on the success of this important project. The EIS is clearly a significant milestone, but there is much more work to be done and we greatly appreciate the continued support from all Seattle sports fans."

The FEIS says it's assumed the arena would be used for pre-season, regular season and postseason NBA games between mid-October and May. That would not take into account the NBA Finals which can last until mid-June.

If an NHL team were also placed in the arena, they would have a similar schedule and time frame.

The arena could also be used for another 60-to-65 events per year and could host the Seattle Storm.

The FEIS looks at different scenarios on which the arena would be hosting an event at the same time as a Mariners or Sounders game. The worst-case scenario mentioned examines a total of 72,500 fans attending an arena event, a Mariners game and an event at CenturyLink Field. The FEIS assumes the addition of an arena would evening traffic volumes along 1st Avenue South 10-to-13%. Traffic on Edgar Martinez Drive S. would increase 14%-to-20%.

Follow Chris Daniels on Twitter @ChrisDaniels5

KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report

Main EIS and Appendices A-D

Appendix E – transportation

Appendices F and G – economic impact and comments


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