SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has made his strongest statement to date about the future of the Seattle Arena proposal and the future of the NBA and NHL in Seattle.
He's set a date.
On Wednesday, the mayor told KING 5 he expects the environmental review to be completed on the project by May 7.
The proposal, first approved by the Seattle City Council and King County Council in 2012, has languished in delays surrounding the environmental review ever since.
The EIS, according to Murray and project observers, is most important roadblock for the proposal to become reality. Seattle arena investor Chris Hansen paid for the work, which has been done by a third party on behalf of the city. Murray said Wednesday the Seattle tunnel project was not a factor in the delays and said Hansen had been slow to provide needed documentation.
He also revealed Wednesday that he is willing to go to the Seattle City Council to modify the existing Memorandum of Understanding for an NHL team to prompt construction of a new facility. The MOU currently allows for public financing and construction to begin only after an NBA team is acquired.
"Should folks in the NHL or potential owners come to us with a different financial plan that pencils out for the city and for our partners at the county, I would be willing to go back to the council and ask them to open that process," said Murray in an interview at City Hall. "I believe there could be an adjustment for an NHL team first if there if a financial plan that pencils out for the city."
He said he did not want to suggest there was a number that could satisfy the need for change.
Murray recently met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during separate meetings in New York City.
"The NHL indicated a willingness to move here as soon as there is an Arena," said Murray, who also spoke highly of potential NHL owner Victor Coleman.
Coleman met with Murray, along with Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly at City Hall last year. "He's an absolute Seattle booster, who wants to bring hockey to the City of Seattle."
The NHL declined comment today on the announcement.
Murray also laid out his timetable for two other issues associated with the proposal in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. He believes the design review and SDOT review of the street vacation of Occidental could be complete no later than August of 2015 and sent to the City Council.
Murray, a former State Representative, and State Senator, also acknowledged he's been trying to find funding for a Lander Street overpass, which would be near a SoDo arena site. It has been requested for several years by the Port of Seattle. He said he has put pressure on Olympia to partially fund what could be a more than $100 million dollar project. "I continue to be committed to that corridor for port, for freight, but also it would make all of our current stadiums and new arena function much better."
If everything goes according to plan, said Murray, the Master Use Permit for the Arena could be issued at the beginning of 2016.
"We're ready to go, it's ready to go."
Murray also dismissed suggestions that a rival plan, in either Tukwila or Bellevue, could jeopardize his new timeline. Both cities were mentioned specifically by Bettman in an interview last month.
"Whether it's a site in Seattle or site somewhere else in King County, those sites would also have to go through a lengthy process to look at the environmental impacts and get the permits you would need to get a permit for to build a very significant structure," Bettman said.
In the wide ranging interview about the topic, the mayor also outlined why he's recently taken a different approach with the project.
"I think if done right and we actually got a team, it would be a benefit to this city, financially and culturally," he said, while also acknowledging the Seahawks' recent success. "Obviously that is a real symbol for how excited and this region is about sports teams, and I think a basketball team, and a hockey team, would be incredible assets, there is only an upside, for the economy, for city revenue and the cultural life of Seattle."
"I would love, as the first gay man of a major city in the US, given the stereotypes, to be mayor who brought home a basketball team and a hockey team, because that would help move a lot of stereotypes that still exist for people like myself," said Murray.