After months of packed public hearings, committee meetings, and negotiations, Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday signed a long anticipated plan to renovate KeyArena in efforts to attract an NHL team and bring back an NBA team to Seattle.
The $600 million plan by Los Angeles-based Oak View Group is all but done—to get the new arena constructed by October 2020, in time for the 2020-2021 NHL season. And the planners believe that if they can get hockey, they can also attract men's basketball.
There's some risk involved for OVG, which will have to pay back any money it borrows from the city (up to $3.5 million total) within 30 days—the construction can start before any teams commit to moving to Seattle. But officials promise it'll happen.
"We have a lot of work to do, but we will deliver," said OVG CEO Tim Leiweke.
Seattle back in 2008 lost the Sonics, who moved to Oklahoma City when plans for a new arena fell through. The arena as is became too small and limited profits for the team.
Since then it's been a long and contentious process for the Seattle City Council, which effectively killed Chris Hansen's SoDo arena proposal last year. The 5-4 narrow vote along gender lines in 2016 stirred sexist backlash that made national headlines. In contrast, Monday's city council vote on the Memorandum of Understanding, the agreement between OVG and the city, was 7-1 (Mike O'Brien was the lone vote against). And those efforts were led largely by council member Debora Juarez, along with Sally Bagshaw (who represents the Seattle center's district).
"We took the time, we did our homework, we worked cooperatively," Juarez said at Wednesday's press conference. "I am blessed to have such a phenomenal job to take on such a major project not just for Magnola...but for this state and the region."
What's next? The project will need to complete an environmental impact statement—that includes reviewing it for traffic impact and identifying mitigation if need be.
OVG applied for the arena to have historical designation, both on the Washington Heritage Register and National Register of Historic Places. If the arena's accepted, that would qualify OVG to get federal tax credits and use that money to finance part of the project.