Council forms new Select Committee on Civic Arenas

The City Council recently formed a new committee to deal with the issues related to competing arena plans for Key Arena at Seattle Center and the proposed SODO Arena in the Stadium District.

The Select Committee on Civic Arenas is co-chaired by Council President Bruce Harrell and Council member Debora Juarez. All nine Council members are also committee members. According to the committee’s web page, it is “limited to monitoring and considering actions related to civic arenas.”

For the Key Arena site, for which an RFP has been circulated and is awaiting responses, the select committee will:

Monitor activities related to the Request for Proposals (RFP) for redeveloping and operating a portion of the Seattle Center into a world-class civic arena presenting music, entertainment, and sports events. Review legislation including but not limited to any potential development agreement, long-term lease, memorandum of understanding, landmark controls and incentives, and other legislation in coordination with the vision and mission of the larger Seattle Center re-development efforts.

For the SODO Arena site, the committee will:

Consider the street vacation petition submitted by WSA Properties LLC in the SODO area. Consider any proposals related to changing the financial commitments established in the 2012 development agreement.

Monday morning at the weekly Council Briefing, Juarez announced that the first committee meeting would be Monday, March 27th at 10:30am, when they would hear an overview of the committee’s expected work. She expects the committee to have ten meetings, over which time it will cover twelve topics.

This new committee will some important purposes for the Council. First, it will clarify which Council committee hears arena-related issues; the SODO Arena street vacation proposal previously went through O’Brien’s Sustainability and Transportation committee, whereas Juarez’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee would likely approve a Key Arena RFP proposal. Given the competing goals, and the unlikelihood that both projects would go forward, the Council will benefit by dealing with both in a single committee forum. Likewise, they can avoid an 11th hour showdown in a Monday afternoon Full Council meeting, as happened a year ago with the SODO Arena street vacation, by having all nine Council members actively participate in the committee deliberations; they may not all agree on a solution, but the disagreements can be aired early and sorted out before the bill is voted out of committee.

Timing of the new committee’s work will be interesting. Chris Hansen has re-submitted his application for the street vacation under revised terms, and when SDOT finishes analyzing that it will need to bring a recommendation forward for timely consideration by the Council. In the meantime, Key Arena RFP responses are due by April 12th, and the Department of Finance and Administrative Services will need to consider those (at least two responses are expected) before bringing a recommendation to the Council. Which one will arrive first in the committee’s inbox? It’s hard to say. I’m sure the Council would love to have them both in-hand before it is required to decide either, though it may be legally restricted in the information it is allowed to use in making either decision so in the end the order may not matter.

We’ll hear more on March 27th.