Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says the future of KeyArena is a major element that must be solved and he’ll spend his final months in power working toward that goal.
Murray attended Thursday night’s KeyArena open house at KEXP studios, where officials from two companies – Oak View Group and Seattle Partners — seeking to renovate the 55-year-old sports facility met the public and answered project questions. He said regardless of whether the city goes with OVG, SP or a Sodo District arena project pitched by Chris Hansen, the future of KeyArena needs to be settled ahead of that choice.
“We’ve gone on for over a decade on what we’re going to do with KeyArena,’’ Murray said. “And … the city has quite a liability up here. We have to make a decision one way or the other.’’
A city-commissioned report two years ago suggested it would cost taxpayers a minimum of $100 million and more likely $150 million to renovate KeyArena if it isn’t remodeled for the NBA and NHL. Though Murray is not running for re-election and will hold office only through December, he hopes to make a recommendation on a KeyArena group to the city council “earlier’’ than an initial late-June/early-July timeframe initially envisioned.
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“It’s important – it’s one of the things I’d like to have as part of my legacy,’’ Murray said. “The mayor that finally solved the arena issue that will eventually lead to a hockey and a basketball team.’’
Murray said the KeyArena question has always lingered, even after Hansen signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding with the city and former Mayor Mike McGinn in 2012 to launch his Sodo project bid.
“When the Sodo proposal was put together by my predecessor, one of the unanswered questions was, ‘What are we going to do with this place?’ ’’ Murray said. “If it can’t be used for an arena … you have to redevelop it for something because right now we’re just paying a lot of money to Band-Aid it together. So it’s costing the taxpayers money right now.’’
Among those attending Thursday’s event were several self-declared fans of Hansen’s project. One of them, Justin Baghai, 25, of Ballard, wanted to hear more about public money the KeyArena groups are seeking.
Hansen’s group on Thursday put out a statement alleging the half-billion-dollar proposals by OVG and SP seek more than $200 million apiece in public subsidies.
Murray countered that Hansen’s group is also seeking “big chunks of public money’’ in a waiver of admissions taxes and “a re-definition of the B&O (beverage and occupation) tax.’’
Murray says that, nonetheless, all three proposals are “significantly smaller’’ in terms of public funding than Hansen’s initial Sodo offer from 2012, as well as previous stadium projects for the Mariners and Seahawks. He said his staff and outside consultants are…