It has been eight years since the Seattle Supersonics left for Oklahoma City, citing the need for a new home or an update to Key Arena, amongst other grievances.
Fast forward to today — now there’s a proposal under consideration to build an arena in SoDo as the home for a new NBA franchise, and possibly an NHL franchise.
We, in the International District (ID), are not so sure about an economic benefit from a new arena.
In a five-year impact study published by the City of Seattle on Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners, owners of restaurants in the International District said the benefit of game days were insignificant, if not negative.
Many businesses reported they did not see an uptick in customers, but they noticed increased traffic and parking spots taken up by people attending games.
Central District businesses received checks to relieve the financial hardships they’ve been facing since the start of a massive transportation project on 23rd Avenue.
No such luck for ID businesses during projects like the First Hill Streetcar line or the construction of Safeco Field.
ID nonprofits were paid millions of dollars. Now some feel like it was “hush money” — to pay us to go away and keep quiet.
But we will be silent no more.
Whatever it takes to get the Sonics back?
Chris Hansen, a hedge-fund manager whose dream is to bring “the Sonics back,” is the main SoDo arena backer.
While trying to take the Sacramento King’s basketball team for Seattle, the San Francisco millionaire broke California campaign contribution laws. He was fined $50,000 in 2013. What does that say about Seattle’s sports business partner?
It would be great to bring the Sonics back.
But at what cost?
Have all other options been considered?
The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker discovered evidence that the city effectively suppressed a study that contradicted the findings of the SoDo Arena Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about whether Key Arena could be adapted to suit an NBA and/or an NHL franchise.
Ryan Sickman, a project manager with architectural giant AECOM stated, “…KeyArena could be reconfigured and redesigned within the building’s existing structure to accommodate both NBA and NHL franchises based upon the now accepted Sacramento Kings design model for NBA seating distribution.’’
KeyArena was deemed viable and more cost effective for the city.
Now, Hansen’s investment group has asked the city to vacate a chunk of Occidental Avenue for the project. We stand with the Port of Seattle and Seattle Mariners in objecting to this, due to the expected increase in traffic congestion.
The Port’s Marni Heffron told the city this month, “We have 500 vehicles per hour on Occidental today,” and “500-600 vehicles in the morning — it’s a lot of traffic that we’re talking about.”
Remember the outrage that accompanied the votes regarding the decision to build Safeco Field. Voters rejected a new baseball stadium, but one was built anyway.
Moving ahead on SoDo must require hard skepticism. And we should not let a bunch of out of town investors create a nightmare for us in building their dream.