For much of the past half decade, a group of investors led by Chris Hansen has sought ways to build an arena in Seattle that could house an NBA team and possibly an NHL club as well. The group, however, has faced resistance, most recently from a city council that refused to grant it access to a city street necessary for construction in the Sodo District.
On Thursday, an Associated Press report broke news that Hansen’s group would also be willing to help rebuild and modernize KeyArena as a venue for concerts, after the construction on the new Sodo facility had been completed, that is.
From 1967 until 2008, KeyArena was home to the NBA’s SuperSonics and the building currently remains on a 74-acre plot in downtown as a multipurpose facility and the home of Seattle’s WNBA club.
Despite the fact that Hansen’s group is aggressively pursuing a franchise – they’ve already pivoted from seeking to use public money to privately financing the project – their plans of building a facility near those of the Seahawks’ and Mariners’ facilities would require the purchase of a portion of Occidental Avenue South.
As recently as May of 2016, however, Seattle city council voted against such an acquisition 5-4, some councilmembers steadfast against the idea of vacating a prominent, industrial city street in the name of supposed “gentrification.”
If the proposal to rebuild KeyArena was intended as an olive branch for city officials, it wasn’t taken as such. Almost immediately after issuing their proposal, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development shot them down, referring to a formal request for proposals that was held earlier in 2017.
If Hansen’s group wanted to modernize KeyArena, the office suggested, they should have formally proposed their plans when the city was requesting them. As things stand, a Los Angeles-based company already has a finalized draft to renovate KeyArena for $564MM with the intention of housing NBA and NHL teams there.
What does this mean for hoops fans hoping for another basketball franchise in the Pacific Northwest? Not much, directly at least.
In April of 2016, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Baker that a “shovel ready arena” wouldn’t hasten the league’s meticulous expansion process. More recently though, Silver told C.J. McCollum of the Players Tribune (yes, that one) in July 2017 that the league would inevitably start looking at growth of franchises.
“Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at,” Silver told him.
Whether that hypothetical franchise suits up in a renovated version of KeyArena or somewhere in the middle of an industrial district slowly enveloped by sports facilities remains to be seen.