Seattle is on track for a September vote on Key Arena

Seattle has released its draft environmental impact study for the renovations at Key Arena and there was no unexpected hiccups so it looks like the proposal is on track for the City Council to vote on it in September. The draft EIS was released back on April 24th and included an increase on the building’s estimated square footage, as well a slight uptick in its seating capacity for hockey.

What really jumps out at me in the draft EIS is the fact that they’re now estimating the arena’s square footage to be up around 750,000…which is inline with the Moda Center in Portland and the Pepsi Center in Denver. Bringing the post renovation square footage up to the modern standard is going to be good for the arena. This bump in projected square footage might be the reason we’re seeing a slight increase in the anticipated seating capacity for hockey as well (from 17,100 to 17,500).

It’s important that the arena be brought up to the current standards of other arenas; as that will help bring in more events than the arena currently holds. As of right now the building gets a little over 100 events a year, but the EIS is predicting between 242 to 257 events a year; which means they’re expecting the Sonics to return because there’s no way the Oak View Groups is going to get anywhere close to that number of events without the 50 or so games (including preseason) that the NBA brings. The plans for the arena also make it extremely clear that they’re counting on the return of the Sonics as they’re building home and away NBA locker rooms, along with the NHL and WNBA ones.

Seattle is expecting the finalized EIS and financial plans to be in place by the City Council meeting on September 14th. At that point, it’s expected the city will approve OVG’s proposal (if everything is checked off and ready to go) so demolition can start in October, 2018…just in time for the NHL board of governors meeting later in September.

23-years after the NBA and Sonics first determined the Seattle Center Coliseum wasn’t up to date, the building will finally be catching up to the arena’s that were being built-in the mid 90s. And that’s something of a concern to me because this building will be less than a decade old as these older arena’s start to get replaced — most arena’s typically have a life cycle of 30 years. As we’re already seeing with some of the brand new arena’s — like Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (816,000 square feet) — they’re already starting to trend bigger than what’s already in existence.

As team’s continue to replace their already existing buildings in the next decade, we could see this newly renovated Seattle Center building quickly fall out of date again; with no obvious way to expand the building in the immediate future…repeating the same cycle that Seattle fell into in the mid 2000s. But instead of just potentially losing the Sonics and Storm, the new NHL franchise could be at risk too.

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