Council starts to weigh in on OVG Key Arena plan

Next Monday, the Council’s Select Committee on Civic Arenas will meet to have its first discussion of OVG’s selected proposal for renovating Key Arena while the Mayor’s staff is negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding on how to move forward.

In advance of the Council’s discussion, last week they sent the Mayor a letter outlining the areas they expect to see addressed in the MOU, highlighting six issues in particular:

  • Seattle Center Integration: How the project contributes to the urban fabric and state of the art high-tech programming at Seattle Center, including how existing arts, music, theater and other organizations are served. With respect to existing tenants, a City goal should be to minimize disruptions to them caused by the redevelopment.
  • City Investments: How municipal taxes generated by activities at KeyArena are used to meet City needs at Seattle Center and in adjacent neighborhoods, specifically public safety, parking and traffic enforcement, and the arena’s long-term capital needs.
  • Due Diligence: Whether financial protections sufficiently address the potential for cost overruns, bankruptcy, and other unforeseen circumstances; the financial viability of Oak View Group and their principal investors; and the reasonableness of the various financial models and forecasts prepared by Oak View Group.
  • Operations & Maintenance: Whether the proposal meets high quality, sustainable, day-to-day maintenance, facility management, and operational concerns.
  • Transportation: How area transportation management addresses neighborhood and city-wide needs, including specific measurable outcomes and performance reviews, innovative mobility strategies, and the impacts on adjacent neighborhoods. The Council will pay close attention to public/community benefits and may host a transportation charrette to give stakeholders an opportunity to influence the project’s transportation
    management plan.
  • Equitable Opportunities: How the proposal involves current and future workers at the facility, including employee protections and representation as reflected in a comprehensive labor peace agreement. Council will evaluate the project’s approach to business owners from under represented communities; the City’s Priority Hire policy objectives; and plans to involve small and locally-owned businesses in delivering concession and products and other similar services at KeyArena.

The Council attached to their letter a memo from Office of Economic Development Director Brian Surratt to the Mayor recommending OVG’s proposal, the final report from the Arena Community Advisory Panel and a letter from the Uptown Alliance.

The Arena Community Advisory Panel concluded:

From this process, the Panel believes that a redeveloped Arena is viable, and, if executed well, will be a critical asset for the region. The two Arena proposals represented strong offers to reimagine the Arena, and we believe the effort to redevelop the Arena is an appropriate path for the City to undertake.

They found OVG’s design to be the stronger of the two proposals, but critiqued OVG (and AEG) for not dealing with the transportation issues “in a compelling or convincing way,” for not dealing with the urban design issues by being too focused on the Arena itself and not on how it integrates with the surrounding community, and for not understanding the “livability needs of the Uptown neighborhood.”

The Uptown Alliance was more pessimistic:

After much study and discussion about each proposals strengths and weaknesses, Uptown Alliance found both proposals lacking in different but fundamental ways and cannot favor one submission over another at this time. Examples of weaknesses include Seattle Partners’ proposal suggesting a bonding mechanism that seems politically challenging for this City to accept and a design that does not respect the criteria for this building destined for landmark approval; Oak View’s proposal being arena-focused giving little attention to its integration within Seattle Center and ignoring the community at-large as well as sparse details on the newly formed operating company and its values.


The Council’s letter requests that the Mayor’s Office transmit any negotiated MOU by September 12, so that the Council can hold at least one public meeting before it clears its schedule in the fall to focus on the 2018 city budget.