Seattle gets NHL team without throwing tons of cash at an arena, this is what victory looks like these days

Seattle was finally awarded its long-awaited NHL franchise yesterday, which means as soon as today work can begin on Seattle’s long-awaited reconstruction of the Key Arena. Curbed Seattle has some renderings, none of which show much that’s super-interesting about the redesigned arena, except that it will feature roof-suspended video boards in geometric shapes that aren’t easily described, and hockey fans who for some reason wave banners and bring replica Stanley Cups to the game, while wearing a startling number of fedoras and wildly cheering no action on the ice at all:

It’s been a long, strange trip for Seattle sports, starting with the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City in 2008 in a hissy fit over not getting public arena cash, then a years-long debate over a new arena in the SoDo district that would-be basketball owner Chris Hansen wanted to build, then ultimately the abandonment of that plan mostly thanks to the opposition of port unions and the turn to the Key remodel instead, with hockey arriving first and maybe basketball later. While there is plenty to argue about the merits of the two sites — I anticipate a full comments section for this one — the one common thread was that the city steadfastly refused to throw public money at either deal, helped out by a voter initiative passed in 2006 that put in place the principle that taxpayers should get a positive return on any public investment in sports venues. As sports subsidy shakedowns go — and this absolutely started as a subsidy shakedown on the part of billionaire former Sonics owner (and former Starbucks CEO) Howard Schultz’s part — it’s about as happy an ending as you’re likely to see.

The as-yet-unnamed Seattle NHL team will begin play in 2021, notwithstanding that the above image prominently features “2020 season” on the arena video boards. Maybe Seattle sports fans are so excited about the return of winter pro sports that they’ll show up an entire year early just to cheer them on? There’s no accounting for people in fedoras.

16 comments on “Seattle gets NHL team without throwing tons of cash at an arena, this is what victory looks like these days

  1. About the locations:
    South Downtown which was Hansen’s idea is a better location.
    Seattle Center, where this arena is located, will have traffic mitigation problems, and the arena people have promised to deal with that some how.

    About the politics:
    It was clear from the hesitancy of the SCC that they were not too enamored with Hansen’s idea in the first place, mostly because Key is a city asset, and it would have been rendered moot.
    As soon as an idea to remodel Key came up, SCC was favorable, which made it obvious what would happen.

    Latest estimate of cost to OVG, who is doing the remodel: 800M
    Cost of team, and the team ownership contains many of the same people as OVG: 650M

    1.5B private money.

      • Not to mention Seattle Center is slated for a future Link Light Rail subway station when the extension to Ballard is eventually built.

        • But that’s 15 years minimum down the road. I’m more curious to see how they plan on upgrading the monorail. That’s really the most logical solution to what will most likely be a traffic mess. Yes, they’ve dealt with it in the past but that was when the Lower Queen wasn’t nearly as developed as it is now.

          At least they aren’t talking about transporting fans via drones anymore. Or so I hope.

        • Decades ago, there were many more parking lots near the Key Arena that have now been eliminated by development. You’ve also got more people living in the city period, many of whom are commuting to and from the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood by car and turning Mercer into a parking lot.

          Regarding the monorail, it will be necessary at the least to provide orca card access with a tap on a device that allow for entry like the buses otherwise you will have long, time consuming lines of fans missing the beginning of the game if ticket entry with change making is the monorail as per usual.

    • The tepid attitude towards the SoDo project was mostly down to Hansen losing his big money guy (Steve Ballmer who left the SoDo group to buy the Clippers in 2014).

      There was some vocal opposition from the Port of Seattle which you could feel the SCC trying hard to ignore for the first 3-4 years of the development of the project. But once Ballmer left, allegiances shifted and politics abandoned him.

      Folks are pissed at the SCC for voting down the street vacation and heading down the Key Arena road instead, but really that was just taking a dying project out to the woods to shoot it.

      • What also hurt Hansen was his inability to get Hockey investors involved in the deal since he preferred that they wait until he obtained a NBA team???? before he dealt with getting the NHL. The extra money from the investors and the political support he would have gotten from the local hockey community potentially could have helped push the project over the finish line.

    • The arena developers are getting a share of future arena taxes kicked back to them by the city — I’d previously seen this estimated as worth about $40 million, but haven’t seen any more recent numbers.

  2. Key Arena is a in a perfect location with a nightlife that already exist instead of another LA Live style Mickey Mouse development around the proposed Hansen arena in SODO.
    Which is the one remaining industrial district in the city which yes eventually will be developed but no need to supercharge it now with an arena that would have possibly made Key Arena worthless.

  3. I think they’re cheering the absence of annoying advertising on the ice and side boards.

  4. It’s been a long road.

  5. I still don’t get why Seattle’s arena deal is good, and New York’s Yankee Stadium deal is bad. No significant taxpayer money towards the construction of the stadium in either case. No property taxes or significant rent collected by the taxpayers in either case. What’s the difference?

    • For starters, New York spent about $300 million on moving parks and building garages for the Yankees.