Council gets a status update on Key Arena renovations

This morning, the Council got an update on what’s happened with planning for OVG’s remake of Key Arena since the city and OVG signed their MOU.

As you may recall, the deal wasn’t done when the MOU was signed; the dealmakers and lawyers moved on to negotiating a set of “transaction documents” with all the gory details of the project and the operating terms once the arena is rebuilt. Currently they are focused on three of them: the “development agreement” which lays out the plan for two years of construction, the lease itself, and the “integration agreement” for how the Arena (which will be managed by OVG) will integrate and cooperate with the rest of Seattle Center.

The development agreements covers all aspects of construction logistics, as well as construction mitigation: event coordination, access to certain areas, dust, noise, sounds, street lane closures, and tenant and staff relocations. Some status notes:

  • the tenants of the Blue Spruce building will be moved elsewhere on the Seattle Center campus.
  • The employee retention program seems to be going well: of the 31 full- and part-time staff of Key Arena, 21 have already been told where they will be reassigned after the arena closes, and the city and OVG are working with the remaining ten.
  • All the relevant unions have been briefed, and OVG is negotiating a labor harmony agreement with them as required in the MOU.
  • The Seattle Storm is “on a very good track” in negotiating a place to play for the two years until the arena reopens.
  • The relocation of the skateboard park is being worked on. The city is evaluating three potential sites with a consultant, and hopes to converge on a single site in the next few weeks.

According to city staff, the lease agreement, which is where the financial arrangements are codified such that the city’s investment and risk are minimized, is the farthest along of the transaction documents. The city is also looking at OVG’s “backstop,” making sure it has sufficient financial support to ensure that it will get all the way to the end of construction.

The integration agreement includes cooperative event scheduling, facility access, parking, and the all-important community benefits package. Some notes:

  • According to Ron Nellums, Director of Seattle Center, the parking management plan is “not far along,” but they are looking hard at how to use state-of-the-art technology to help solve it and guide people to where parking exists around the Seattle Center.
  • As always, the Council has strong opinions on the community benefits package, much of which was spelled out at a high level in the MOU. A working group has been formed with representatives from Uptown, Queen Anne, Belltown, South Lake Union, Seattle Center resident organizations, and the Seattle Center Foundation.  Nevertheless, Council member Juarez was insistent that the ongoing community benefits needed to be spread across the city and not just the immediate area surrounding the Arena, since the Seattle Center belongs to the whole city.

The design and permitting process for the Arena redevelopment is moving along. The team has hit the “50% design” milestone, and those plans are being reviewed by city departments and the Seattle Design Commission.

  • The SEPA draft Environmental Impact Statement was released last week. Comments will be accepted until June 7, and the city hopes to deliver the final EIS by the end of August.
  • Negotiations over signage are underway. City staff expect that it will require a change to the city’s signage code, which will require a public hearing and eventually the Council to pass an ordinance.
  • The next Landmarks Board presentation is May 2.
  • The next Seattle Design Commission meeting, to review the 50% design plans, is May 3.
  • The plan for public art is “advancing.”

In the meantime, pre-construction work has begun. The city is vetting OVG’s construction logistics plan, and a noise variance application is in process through SDCI. Also:

  • Through some “creative construction” planning, Pottery Northwest will remain on site, with only a short closure (a few weeks) during the most intense part of the construction.
  • Permitting for the project is being done in two phases: first the “shoring” phase so that OVG can get into the ground earlier, then subsequently the building permit.
  • The city said that they are out in the community discussing the North Downtown Mobility Action Plan.

The last event in the old Key Arena before it closes will be a pre-season Golden State Warriors NBA game.

The Council’s Select Committee on Civic Arenas has four more meetings scheduled over the coming months:

  • May 10th, which will cover transportation, design, the draft EIS, permitting, community benefits, tenants, and arts.
  • July 26th, which will include a review of draft transaction documents, the monorail study findings, the “controls and incentives” agreement to preserve historic resources and landmarks, and proposal for an initial term permit for the ramp under Thomas Street in order to take some of the construction vehicle traffic off surface streets.
  • August 10th, in which the committee will identify issues and propose amendments to the transaction documents, and look at issues around financial terms, tenants, labor, community relations and benefits, and parking.
  • September 12th: a final financial briefing, and a vote to approve the final transaction documents.

You can watch this morning’s committee hearing on the Seattle Channel.


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One thought on “Council gets a status update on Key Arena renovations”

  1. Thanks for the update, I’ll either be there in person or watch the meetings on live feed! Especially on the monorail situation, as I’m rather stoked the Seattle Monorail will FINALLY join ORCA!

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