SBD/September 21, 2012/Facilities

Seattle Center Commission Members Say New Arena Could "Devastate" KeyArena

KeyArena stands to lose $5M in funding if the WNBA Storm leave for the new arena
Members of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission said that a new $490M sports arena “would ‘devastate’ KeyArena, throw its existing business plan into doubt and leave Seattle Center without one of its major draws,” according to Lynn Thompson of the SEATTLE TIMES. Fans of KeyArena were “relieved when a revised agreement” for the new arena “included a $7 million fund to improve and study the future” of the aging venue. However, the “fine print calls for $5 million of the KeyArena fund to follow" the WNBA Storm if the team “relocates to the new arena.” The remaining $2M would “offset the cost of any future improvements to KeyArena.” Washington state Rep. Reuven Carlyle said, "KeyArena is dead and done the day the new arena opens.” Thompson noted business owners in the arena’s neighborhood, who are “trying to recover from the departure of the Sonics and a tough economy,” indicated that a new arena “likely would attract the biggest entertainers who now perform at KeyArena -- and what remains of their customers.” Mayor Mike McGinn said that he “appreciates that the revised agreement addresses KeyArena and the future of Seattle Center.” However, he noted that both “have struggled financially over the past few years, well before a new arena was proposed.” McGinn said before investor Chris Hansen "came along, we were already having this discussion.” KeyArena was built for the '62 World's Fair, and the city spent $75.7M in ‘95 “to substantially remodel it" for the Sonics. Storm owners this week said that they “wouldn't comment on the revised agreement with Hansen and what it means for the team.” Thompson noted the city “currently subsidizes the Storm at KeyArena to the tune of $300,000 a year.” The $5M that would follow the team to the new arena is “meant to continue that city support” (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/20).

FINAL PACT EXPECTED SOON: In Seattle, Keith Ervin noted despite "reservations about some parts of Chris Hansen's revised agreement with the Seattle City Council," King County officials said that they "expect to reach a final pact soon." Council Chair Larry Gossett said that the Metropolitan King County Council "probably will vote Oct. 8 or 15" on Hansen's plan for a $490M arena south of Safeco Field. Gossett added that McGinn and County Exec Dow Constantine "had hoped the council would vote next Monday, the same day as the City Council, but County Council members felt they needed more time to study details of the agreement" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/20).
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