KING 5’s Chris Daniels is reporting that Seattle mayor Ed Murray says the SODO Arena’s FEIS — environmental impact statement — is expected to be completed, and released, on May 7th. Daniels is also reporting that Murray is open to a NHL first amendment to the City’s memorandum of understanding with arena land owner Chris Hansen and (his chosen) hockey partner Victor Coleman.
Murray’s statement says reveals that the biggest obstacle to Seattle moving forward with the arena, whether it’s NHL or NBA first, is going to be removed. The arena plan has been stalled over the last two years as the Seattle Department of Planning has struggled to be finish the report on time; as it was first do in February, 2013, then April-May, 2014, and then again in November ’14. There have been multiple for the reasons these delays, from Hansen not sending in paper work on time…to Bertha being stuck in the ground and the potential of tearing down the Alaskan Way Viaduct — which would cause all sorts of issues traffic wise in SODO.
Once the FEIS is made public, the city can work with Hansen and Coleman to develop a NHL first amendment to the current MOU. And it would be advantageous for the city to get the arena built for a league that appears more than willing to come to it. Because Seattle desperately needs to get a new building built, as the Key Arena’s infrastructure ages and the city doesn’t have the funds to bring it up to standards.
Fortunately for the City of Seattle it seems like mayor is more than willing to bring a sensible proposal to the city council for a NHL option. While reopening the MOU would be fraught with political risk, there is very little added financial risk to the city and county if both entities move forward with hockey first; and this is because NHL franchises valuations are currently similar to where NBA franchise valuations were when the deal was initially negotiated back in 2011. Which means it would be really easy (financially) to substitute the NHL for the NBA on the MOU, FEIS, and the umbrella agreement once the city get to that point.
Once the environmental impact statement is finished, the biggest obstacle to the arena reaching the “shovel ready” stage — an approved umbrella agreement — is the willingness of Coleman, and his ownership group, to stake their own financial capital ($$$) to the project. If he is willing to assume the majority of the risk from Hansen (who is probably going to have to wait to get an NBA team) and help alleviate some of said risk from Seattle and King County, then there is no reason the project couldn’t move forward with a hockey franchise as its anchor tenant.