The arena race in Seattle is getting hot

After months of silence on the arena front, the last week has been full of breaking news and insanely hot takes. On Monday, the Tukwila arena became a real thing and on Thursday the reported NHL partner for Chris Hansen’s SODO arena proposal back out. Now it’s a three-way race to try to get an arena built-in the Seattle area and lure the NHL and NBA to the Emerald City.

Victor Coleman announced that he was officially pulling out of the Sonics Arena project and was beginning the process of looking for another arena site in the SODO area. He stated that he is looking for another development partner to privately finance the arena and develop the land around it. Coleman was allegedly the money man behind the effort to bring the NHL to Hansen’s SODO arena, and many people had pinned their hopes of getting the building built before the MOU expired on him.

The expectation had been that Coleman would work with Hansen to create an alternative, NHL first, MOU that would pencil out for Seattle so the building would be built before 2017. This split is a public relations disaster for Hansen’s arena effort as it now appears that his plan is dead in the water. Especially since the two other arena plans are entirely privately financed — this makes the public bonds involved in Hansen’s building more of a political landmine.

But it is often forgotten that Hansen’s arena is in the best location for the city, the county, and the fan base. It’s right near I-90, highway 99, and I-5 exits that make it fairly easy to get onto our “high-capacity”, “high-speed” roadways through the Seattle area. His proposal is also light years ahead of the Tukwila arena — which is just starting the environmental review process — and Coleman’s vague proposal for a privately financed arena in the SODO area that’s not Hansen’s project.

Tukwila’s proposed arena is at the hectic junction of I-5, I-405 and the West Valley Highway that often creates back-ups when there is very little traffic. On game days, those roadways are going to be absolutely packed with commuters trying to get home and fans trying to attend the game. It would be a traffic nightmare that really won’t be alleviated by Sound Transit’s Sounder Rail line that runs next to the proposed site. This should create some serious concerns for fans living in the North Sound area that would like to attend hockey and basketball games.

It’s likely that Bellevue will have its own arena proposal become public in the next week or so, which would create a four way race to get a building built to host a NBA and NHL; two different buildings, one for each league, would be a financial disaster for the investors involved…primarily the NHL franchise — hockey revenues are driven more by the arena, basketball revenues driven more by media contracts.

Tukwila may have all of the moment, but that is likely to change when the City of Seattle releases the FEIS into Hansen’s proposal next Friday. Either way, May looks like its going to be an interesting month for arena watchers.

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