Seattle mayor calls Hansen arena plan “technically alive,” no, that’s not a compliment

There’s been a lot of back and forth lately about whether Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has really decided on renovating KeyArena over approving Chris Hansen’s plan for a new SoDo arena or is just keeping his options open, but this latest quote from Murray sounds pretty decisive:

“The SODO plan is still technically alive and the council, [street] vacations are in the council’s purview, not ours. Work could be done on doing it. If we were going to send it back down to the council though, I would want a very different process than was used the first time,” Murray said.

“Technically alive” is about like “mostly dead,” and while that means Hansen can still hold out some hope, it’s a pretty clear sign that a Key renovation is Murray’s first choice. Which may not matter all that much — the council still has to weigh in, and with Murray not running for re-election his opinion may not carry as much importance — but it’s still not good news for Hansen (who yesterday said he’s still willing to “be patient” in his quest for his own arena).

I’m not so sure that tipping the city’s hand is the best way to go about this — one of the two Key renovation bidders has already dropped out, meaning that the other bidder Oak View Group and Hansen are the only two developers left to play off against each other in an attempt to get the best deal possible for taxpayers. This may not matter too much in terms of getting a new NBA or NHL team — OVG’s Tim Leiweke is a veteran sports guy, and besides which has already invited Hansen to join any ownership group — but it could make a difference in, say, lease terms, which is a very big deal indeed. You’d think any mayor worth his salt would know how to say, “We’re still keeping an open mind to all options,” but then, mayors about to leave office often are thinking more of their next jobs than their current ones, so maybe not.

14 comments on “Seattle mayor calls Hansen arena plan “technically alive,” no, that’s not a compliment

  1. The thing is, Hansen’s group still owns the SoDo property where their arena would be built and that is some VERY valuable real estate regardless of what roadblocks the Port of Seattle will get their cronies in City Hall to put up. Even if an arena is never built on that site, Hansen & Co. are hardly limited in what they COULD build instead. They’ll be okay, especially given how real estate ivalues n Seattle have just been exploding.

    Also, while the proposed deal for the Seattle Center Coliseum renovation is not all that bad relative to what happens in other cities, they’re still counting on an NHL and/or NBA owner to sign on as a tenant in a building amid perpetual traffic gridlock that is owned by one entity and managed by another in a city whose present mayor and city council can be called a lot of things, but “pro-sports” isn’t one of them. How many team owners are going to want to sign on for all that when they can find better deals elsewhere?

    Seattle has very attractive demographics, but it’ll be like a mansion with landmines buried in the front yard for any NHL or NBA franchise operating at Seattle Center.

    • I think Hansen is waiting to see if the “landmines” explode at Seattle Center and in the neighborhood due to lots of cars descending on a neighborhood for NHL games with too few parking spaces, limited egress from the neighborhood (google the mercer mess), the nearest major highways far from the arena and no relief from rail transit until the mid 2030’s. A revolt from transit frustrated sports fans resulting in decreased attendance at NHL games and a revolt from neighborhood residents objecting to the crowds and the car traffic might force investors to look at Hansen’s transit superior by miles SODO location when NBA expansion rolls around.

  2. Port of Seattle cronies at City Hall? Who might that be? Names, please.

    • Guesses to say the least are Bagshaw and Juarez on the council and outgoing Mayor Murray was a recipient of POS support in running for Mayor.

  3. Chris Hansen can’t seem to get the fact that the biggest obstacle to both the SODO arena and a possible NBA team there is staring back at him from the mirror.

    Once he tried to sabotage the Sacramento arena’s public financing, he became radioactive to the NBA.

    The entire SODO plan was predicated on a NBA franchise going to Seattle, which isn’t gonna happen as long as Chris Hansen is in the picture.

    • The biggest obstacle to them getting an NBA team is there are few that look likely to move anytime soon. Milwaukee is still trying to get a new arena so they are a realistic possibility but there are few others and expansion doesn’t sound terribly likely. Seattle is talking about building a fancy inn at a time when there are no travelers.

      • I’m hearing that NBA owners are even considering some minor contraction so they don’t have to split the TV money among as many teams. I’ll take that one with an entire box of Morton Salt, but I’m pretty sure expansion is not on the horizon. My money’s on the NHL if an owner can be found who’s willing to occupy the third slot down on the totem pole by being a tenant to a landlord running the arena for the City.


        New Milwaukee arena. I think you can safely take the Bucks off that list.

    • Sierra quit spitting rhetoric from Leiwike who has a reason to trash Hansen. Dont you think that Hansen’s business partner, Steve Ballmer (who still has investment in the land and potential ancillary developments), that Ballmer would tell Chris “bro, you got no chance.” Especially when its been published that Ballmer was the financier of the money given to stop the Sacramento arena.

      So your theory carries little weight and has been contradicted. The only people that spew that rhetoric are enemies of Sodo. Leiwike and lame duck Mayor Murray. Murray wants a last win before he leaves office. The council will slow this down. Supposedly two councilmembers want independent reviews of the project already and then independent reviews for traffic outside of the SEPA reviews.

      Leiwike is about to learn about the Seattle Process. 2019 shovel ready. That is funny. Plus wait till we actually get a full fledged review of the financing. I have a feeling that 250 million that AEG asked for up front is gonna be close to the price OVG will require.

      How long will the big money man that wants the NHL Team, Bonderman, will be around. By the time the arena is done he will be pretty much 80 years old. I wonder how patient he will be.

      • Speaking of “spew”, can you provide a link for that “published” bit about Ballmer donating to Sacramento’s stop the arena movement ? I think that’s made up. I also think Ballmer’s involvement in the land/ancillary developments has never been quantified and may just be remnants from when he bought his team and was stating he wasn’t abandoning SoDo’s group entirely.

      • Leiweke used to be an executive with AEG. He knows what they know. If AEG thought the deal was financially unworkable without a giant upfront gift from the taxpayers, then Leiweke will reach the same conclusion.

  4. Remember Key Arena sits on a public park. The reason it is so difficult to get anything done there is you literally have hundreds of people that want a voice and in most cases have a voice. OVG will not own the arena nor the land and we are to believe that they are gonna spunk 600 million without significant help on the back end of taxpayer money in one fashion or another. As Hansen has said the numbers thrown about are well too rounded and he said back in 2011 that when looking at the potential of Key Arena that it would cost 700-800 million in the end even though in theory it could be done cheaper.

    The traffic is a NIGHTMARE like a huge reason to why Seattle is regarded to as ‘one of the worst’ traffic cities in the country. Its essentially the heart of all that. Plus they are adding tens of thousands of jobs with Amazon and Expedia right down the road. The Gates Foundation will still have a big say. The Uptown Alliance and others have said they cant recommend OVG at this time.

    Murray is attempting to fast track cause he is a lame duck and wants to look good. The council isnt lame duck and they are the ones that will have to wear the badge of shame if the city gets the shaft on the back end. As Art Thiel pointed out that for what this announcement was, that everyone was far too chummy. Coupled with the exit letter from AEG that was literally vicious, the council needs to hire independent counsel to oversee this project and possibly even negotiate. I firmly agree with Art. Something feels really wrong about this. Too much giddiness by city hall for someone to come in and save their park. Who knows what has been argeed for them to save face. Its very worrisome and I hope Neil and others bring that to light in time.

  5. The extent to which the city is going to try and preserve Key seems silly. I don’t see whats historic about it. Given the skyrocketing cost of real estate in Seattle, wouldn’t it be better to bulldoze the place and sell the land.

    • It would be better (and smarter) for the city to do a cheap downsize scale of the Key to serve small scale sports and music, and give the street vacation to Hansen’s SODO property with superior transit accessibility and let him pursue teams.