Chris Daniels of KING-5 TV in Seattle has gotten hold of a report on possible renovations to Key Arena that was commissioned by the city council, and it says: Yes, Key Arena can be renovated. How much money you got?
AECOM studied multiple scenarios for the building, of varying costs, and concluded there are multiple potential options for repurposing the building, including as an adventure sports park, amusement park, aquarium, museum, or waterpark. It even suggests the building could be redeveloped into 400-500 units of housing. Those options, according the report, would cost north of $100 million. The city could also demolish the arena at a cost close to $7 million.
The AECOM report suggests the city could complete a gut remodel of the building to make it NBA and NHL compatible at a cost of $285 million.
Okay, then. It’s not entirely clear what “NBA and NHL compatible” means — Key is currently too short to comfortably fit a hockey rink, but the only thing wrong with it as an NBA arena is that the NBA wants more revenues that it can generate, and the sky’s the limit there in terms of demands. (The report is online, but it’s 169 pages and the Scribd search function doesn’t appear to be working properly — if anyone wants to read the whole damn thing to see what $285 million would buy, be my guest.) And while Seattle city councilmember Jean Godden noted on Friday that “$285 million [would be] a small amount compared to the cost of a new arena” (true!), it would also be a whole lot more than the cost of letting Chris Hansen build a new arena with mostly his own money, not to mention more than just not building a new arena at all.
I suppose one way to look at it would be that this would be an investment in keeping the Key Arena active and maintaining the surrounding neighborhood — except that, according to another study from earlier this year noted by Daniels, the surrounding neighborhood doesn’t seem to have been bothered much by the NBA’s departure:
The study [by economists Brad Humphreys and Adam Nowak] says condo prices have experienced “excess price appreciation” since the Sonics left, based on research involving 10,000 residential property transactions within one mile of Key Arena between 2000-2013. They write, “These results suggest that the presence of a team in a high profile sports league is not the most important factor driving observed property value increases documented in the existing literature.”
This isn’t a brand-new study — I mentioned it in my Vice Sports piece about the Bucks back in July — but still the point remains: Seattle could spend $285 million upgrading Key Arena to make NBA and NHL teams want to move there, maybe, depending on what the upgrades included and what kind of lease they were offered. Or it could not, and still have $285 million and still be Seattle. It’s nice to have all the options on the table, but unless the only question being asked here is “How can we get a basketball or hockey team to move to Seattle?”, this isn’t all that enticing an option.