As the city of Seattle prepares to hire a consultant to review OVG’s proposed renovation of Key Arena, I can’t help but think that the process involved in getting to this point stinks. Especially since Seattle is still involved in a binding MOU with Chris Hansen’s ArenaCo until December 3rd, the five-year anniversary of when it was signed.
In April, OVG and AEG (Key Arena’s current management company) released their renderings of what they would hope to build if the city selected them to renovate the Key. To outside observers, and AEG, it became quickly apparent that OVG’s proposal was the favorite when it came to renovations; AEG’s plan involved public bonds, on a similar scale to Hansen’s original Sodo proposal, so it never stood a chance. Other than the bonds being involved, it never really felt like mayor Ed Murray was seriously considering AEG’s proposal.
This feeling was seemingly confirmed during the announcement ceremony where OVG was officially chosen by Murray for the renovation proposal. Which sucks for AEG, but Also sucks for the Sodo proposal, because it sure as hell feels like that plan is dead in the water.
While the original Sodo proposal went through public hearings at the city and county council levels — as well as getting it the design approved through the city’s design commission and the city’s department of transportation (traffic studies and the vacating of Occidental Avenue) — the OVG plan hasn’t had any of that yet…in fact, the AEG plan didn’t get any of that before they dropped out of the process altogether.
Murray is currently pushing for a vote by the council for after the current MOU expires in December, which is roughly seven and a half months after the initial proposals were released. For Hansen’s Sodo arena, the plan was announced in February, 2012 and the City and County councils approved the MOU in December of that same year. At the time, there were no other competing arena proposals and the two governing bodies were able to focus all of the time committed to the arena discussion on Hansen’s plan.
The city’s obsession with preserving the Key Arena has been a major issue for Hansen and his group throughout the negotiation process that started over 60 months ago. That’s why they agreed to pony up $7 million to help fund a study to develop a plan for the historic arena so that it can be used in concert with their proposed building in Sodo.
Unfortunately that wasn’t enough for some members of the city council and that was part of the reason they voted against vacating Occidental if Hansen were to acquire an NBA team.
So Hansen and his team went back to the drawing board and determined that the interest rates are now favorable on a private loan to finance the Sodo arena, which means that they’re willing to rip up the MOU and build it without public funds — which also means an NHL team first could he it built if the city sells him Occidental. But there has been little to no public discussion from the mayor’s office, or the council, about this development; and they’ve continued to focus on renovating the Key.