The Seattle Times has some good news about KeyArena today.
Far from sitting on the sidelines after the Sonics left town following the NBA team's final 2007-'08 season here, the arena has actually rebounded and is now making more money ($1.2 million) than it was in 2008 (when it was in the red.)
The Times reported today:
Compare those numbers [the $1.2 million] with 2005, for example: KeyArena was hemorrhaging money, even with its anchor team, the Sonics, still in place. The arena’s net loss that year was more than $1.5 million — and it was $3.275 million if you don’t include the city-allocated admissions tax that benefited the arena until 2011.
For starters, we are not surprised about this news. In fact, we derided former mayor Mike McGinn last year for bailing on the Key, noting that it was much more vibrant than he was saying. After a debate with then-challenger Ed Murray, we wrote in the next day's Fizz:
Check out our Twitter report from last night's mayoral debate here, which includes a fun fact check on McGinn's contention that Key Arena was no longer a competitive venue for top tours.
Our tweet: "Re: McG saying Key isn't getting big acts, huh? Kanye, Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Selena Gomez, Pink, Pearl Jam, Avett Bros, NIN."
As today's Times article notes, 2013 was a booming year with acts such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.
One thing I'd quibble with in the Times article. They quote the head of the Queen Anne chamber of commerce saying local nightlife was busier during the Sonics heyday (the chamber doesn't provide stats; we have a call out.) While I don't doubt that claim, the new NBA model uses a one-stop-shop experience that doesn't cater to the surrounding community anymore, providing restaurants and bars inside the arena themselves, sucking nightlife out of the neighborhood and into the building.
Another point: The WNBA Storm, who were loyal to the Key, only get a single mention in the article. The fact is, as someone whispered to me last week at a roundtable where the moderator pressed King County Executive Dow Constantine about bringing the NBA back to Seattle, "We have a basketball team."
Indeed, we do. And Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams tells Jolt, "they're a great partner and pay us their rent every month." (According to Nellams, the Storm paid approximately $97,000 in rent in 2013 (which doesn't include the $118,000 hey also paid for "reimbursable expenses" such as ushers, ticket takers, and sound and stage technicians.)
The city was actually subsidizing the Sonics in the 2000s, paying about $2.2 million a year to cover the team's losses.
We've got to hand it to the Key. They did a study back in 2008 saying they'd could be profitable without the Sonics. They were right.