Addressing the real question in Seattle’s KeyArena-Sodo debate

A big cost from Chris Hansen’s arena plan is what taxpayers might need to spend to fix up KeyArena once it’s rendered second tier by a new Sodo venue.

Inside sports business

Last week’s release of the full proposals by two groups offering to renovate KeyArena for NBA and NHL showed that both want some public funds.

The Seattle Partners group — consisting of Anschutz Entertainment Group and Hudson Pacific Properties — has a $521 million renovation proposal with $250 million in public-bond funding attached. The group guarantees all debt servicing, similar to the $200 million in bonds entrepreneur Chris Hansen initially sought for his Sodo District arena project up until last year.

The Oak View Group plans a fully private $564 million KeyArena renovation but seeks tax revenues after construction as well as Port of Seattle funding for an 850-stall parking garage.

And despite the public-money requests, the city remains highly receptive to both KeyArena groups. Even with Hansen’s plan offering all-private funding.

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How can this be? Well, there’s a good reason.

Hansen’s proposal also has serious public dollars attached. Arguably, far more than any bond proposal or parking garage entails.

It has nothing to do with the tax breaks Hansen also would seek after construction. Nor the public street he wants the city to sell to him. Sure, those constitute public funds.

But the biggest, potentially deal-breaking public cost for Hansen’s plan is what taxpayers would need to spend to fix up KeyArena once rendered second tier by a new Sodo venue.

And it wouldn’t be cheap. The city commissioned a comprehensive study on this topic three years ago. The answers it received weren’t pretty.

The final report, published in June 2015 by the AECOM architectural firm, put at least a $100 million price tag on minimal KeyArena upgrades.

More likely, taxpayers would be looking…

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