SEATTLE – Sources close to the ongoing arena negotiations suggest the future of KeyArena is a vital component of any deal.
The City-owned building, on the Seattle Center grounds, would stand to lose significant business if a new arena is constructed in either Seattle or Bellevue, and city leaders are carefully weighing that factor.
That’s part of the reason why negotiations have included potentially using the Key as a temporary home for an NBA or NHL franchise, or both, while a new arena is built.
But it is unclear whether the NHL, or prospective hockey owner, would allow a team to use the building, which was renovated for the NBA’s Sonics in the mid-1990’s.
“I think it could work. It could be a good temporary building,” says Don Levin, who has been mentioned as a potential Seattle NHL Owner. But he acknowledges the challenges, “There are only 9,000 non-obstructed seats. Everything else is obstructed view. I’m not sure you sell them for much.” Key Arena seats just over 11,000 for Hockey.
The NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, which the league says could relocate after the end of the season, rank last in league attendance at 11,685 a game.
Levin says he has not talked to the league about the Coyotes. He also says hasn’t talked with a proposed Seattle Arena investment group, led by San Francisco Hedge Fund manager Christopher Hansen. He admits meeting with Bellevue leaders last year.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was quoted by La Presse of Canada in late January as saying "Seattle, like Quebec, amphitheatres (have) to be built. Existing infrastructure - the Coliseum and the Key Arena, which served as home to the SuperSonics basketball club before being relocated to Oklahoma City, could serve as temporary solutions.”
However, Daly told KING5 this week, “We would have to look at it. We haven’t done that yet.”
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland says a city feasibility study on the Tacoma Dome was delayed. Strickland says the city’s ongoing budget negotiations helped to push her timetable back. She had been pushing the possibility of renovating the Tacoma Dome for an NBA or NHL franchise.
Strickland adds, that even as a temporary use facility, the city would have to add an ice sheet and equipment to make it work for an NHL franchise.
The Mayor says Tacoma has not been asked to hold dates at the Dome for sports franchise this fall.
A Source familiar with Key Arena bookings, says facility leaders have also not been asked to block out dates.