Arenas committee holds its first meeting

Monday morning the Council’s Select Committee on Civic Arenas held its first meeting, which entailed a high-level overview of the committee’s purview, as well as the issues related to the SODO Arena and Key Arena proposals that are likely to come before it.

Here’s a FAQ on the committee itself and a pointer to Monday’s presentation by the Council’s staff. Most of it was a repeat of things already known, so rather than repeat that let me just share with you the new and/or updated information that was discussed.

  • The committee’s two co-chairs, Council President Harrell and Council member Juarez, will split duties. Harrell will chair meetings held to discuss the SODO Arena, and Juarez will chair meetings about Key Arena.
  • The resubmitted SODO Arena street vacation is under review by SDOT and the Seattle Design Commission. Once those reviews are complete, the request will come before the Council for action. There is no timeframe for that; given that not much has changed since the original proposal, it might go quickly, but much depends on the length of the Design Commission’s queue of proposals to review.
  • For the pending Key Arena RFP, a quick summary of the timeline: proposals are due by April 12th; on April 17th, FAS will present a summary of the proposals to the Council as a status update; The Office of Economic Development will deliver its recommendation to the Mayor on or before June 30th, and the Council will be presented with the Mayor’s selection on July 10th. It’s anyone’s guess how that will align with the SODO Arena street vacation approval process.
  • Of the ten buildings on the redevelopment site, seven are more than 50 years old and therefore qualify for landmark status. The Seattle Center staff are in the process of submitting landmark applications for all seven to the Landmark Preservation Board (LPB). The LPB makes the final decision on conferring landmark status, but separately from that recommends a set of “Controls and Incentives” for the building that must be ratified by the Council. The Controls and Incentives place restrictions on what can be done with a building. RFP respondents must assume that the buildings are declared landmarks with (unspecified) restrictions on modifications to the building, but they are also allowed to submit a second proposal that assumes no landmark status.
  • Key Arena has been operating in the black since 2010.  In the graph below, you can see the tremendous hit to both revenues and expenses in 2007 after the Sonics left. From 2007-2010, the Arena benefited from revenue subsidies from the city’s general fund. Ironically, it lost money when the Sonics were here prior to 2007. The fact that it’s profitable now is a testament to the creativity and hard work of the Arena management team who have focused on booking concerts and other entertainment events in additional to the Seattle Storm. However: the current revenue stream is not sufficient to pay for necessary capital investments and major maintenance on the building. The Council members asked for a detailed list of what is required and the cost of that work, as it is expected that the city might need to do some or all of that work as part of accepting a proposal.

  • In January, the city completed a strategic parking study for Seattle Center (note: it’s a study, not a plan). Its conclusion: the area around Seattle Center has sufficient parking during most days, but reaches capacity during large event evenings and the big festivals like Bumbershoot.
  • The SODO Arena MOU requires the city to lease Key Arena to Hansen’s team as a temporary location for NBA and/or NHL teams while the SODO Arena is constructed. The Key Arena RFP makes potential proposers aware of that fact.
  • The RFP states in its summary of the city’s arena objectives that hosting an NBA team in Key Arena is one of those objectives, but RFP respondents are not, in fact, required to commit to bringing an NBA team to the city or hosting it in Key Arena.
  • Other big changes are underway or being considered for Seattle Center. KCTS has seven years left on its lease, but the building it currently occupies is obsolete for its purposes. Memorial Stadium is owned by Seattle Public Schools, and the school district is considering it as a site for a downtown public school. Mercer Arena is currently being demolished and rebuilt as administrative offices for Seattle Opera.