SoDo is Dead

I know there are a lot of folks that wanted to see the SoDo site be the location of Seattle’s arena to host NHL and NBA teams, but the door seems to have been closed indefinitely as the City of Seattle shared that they will not be re-voting on the Occidental Street Vacation that the Hansen would need to build their arena in SoDo.SeattleArena

I have said SoDo is dead before and nothing has really changed my mind since I originally posted in May of 2016. That post was before KeyArena was brought up as an option. It was clear to me that the current City Council decided that SoDo is not where they wanted another sports facility to be built. Since that post, nothing has materially changed. Hansen offered to forego his $130M in public financing for the street vacation, but that was much ado about nothing. It didn’t go over well, but I chalked this up as “no news” news. The financing has always been tied to Hansen procuring an NBA team and since the NBA has made it clear that they were not expanding before the MOU was set to expire, the financing was a non-issue.

The reasons for the unwillingness for the city to revisit the street vacation could be any combination of the following reasons:

  1. No money. When Ballmer left the group that eliminated Hansen’s majority owner/partner. Hansen could have addressed this, but, for whatever reason, hasn’t added any investors to his group. Now it is relatively impossible to replace a significant partner, like Ballmer, with over a billion in net worth. As far as I can tell, the City doesn’t grant street vacation on speculation that a company, organization or individual can attract more investors. The city expects to see all the financing in order before a street is vacated.
  2. No NHL partner. It’s no secret that the NHL is ready to expand before the NBA. Many sources have made that clear. Over a year ago, Hansen’s partner, Wally Walker confirmed that the Hansen group has continued to talk to prospective NHL owners but in 6+ years, they have not been able to bring any of them on board.
  3. Politics. Yep, flat out politics. It is easy to blame the Port of Seattle, since they were the most vocal opponent over the last 5 years. The Mariners & Seahawks were also quiet opponents of the SoDo arena plans. Those are 3 powerful groups that are difficult to overcome.
  4. Relationship with the NBA. For years there have been rumors & reports that Hansen’s relationship with the NBA has some challenges. The city has acknowledged that they have been in communication with both the NBA and NHL during the KeyArena RFP process to make sure it is viable. If this relationship issue did exist, it is certainly conceivable that the NBA would have confirmed it to the City of Seattle during these conversations.
  5. KeyArena has become viable. At the time of the Occidental Street Vacation vote, KeyArena was not really talked about as a viable option to host the NBA and NHL. outsideSince then, the City issued an RFP and got two responses to redevelop KeyArena from two power houses in the industry that have deep ties to the NBA and NHL, AEG and OVG. Both RFP responses confirmed that KeyArena could be redeveloped into a building to support NHL and NBA. The city confirmed that the Mayor’s Office were in communication with both leagues on the viability of the proposals.

KeyArena or Bust

The demise of SoDo leaves only one option for an NHL/NBA arena, a revamped KeyArena. NBA aside and focusing on the NHL, with the addition of Vegas this year, the NHL is set at 31 teams with 15 teams in the west and 16 in the east. This would imply 1 additional opening for an expansion franchise. The league will not wait for Seattle forever, especially with interest starting to percolate in Houston and Kansas City, both of which could plug and play fairly easily in the western conference and already have existing arenas. With no other options in the Seattle area, it looks like KeyArena is our only hope to see the NHL here anytime soon. There are certainly other scenarios that could play out, but it feels like our window of opportunity is now, otherwise we might be waiting a long time for an NHL team.


5 thoughts on “SoDo is Dead

  1. While I think this process has been extremely one (and short) sided, the writing is indeed on the wall.

    I admire the work Hansen has done to get this process to where it is, he has done himself no favors with his relatively hands-off approach and rare public appearances. I know he’s stated he has a family and responsibilities in California, but since the MOU was signed, he hasn’t been as public as he needed to be. His over-zealous pursuit of the Kings didn’t make him many friends in the NBA and his refusal (until recently) to not find a legit NHL partner kept the whole project in limbo. When you factor the loss of Ballmer, it’s been a slow and steady decline.

    That said, I have SERIOUS reservations about OVG and whether they are serious about bringing actual teams. As a fan of the NHL who has waited for 30 years for a team to call Seattle home, I do feel we’re closer than ever. However, I’ve also seen the Coliseum/Key Arena renovated once only to be called obsolete within 15 years. I don’t see how renovating again, even if it’s called a “new” arena, is going to be any better. I’m sure most of us reading this blog have been to new arenas around the country (PPG Paints, Xcel Engergy, Staples, etc.). Those are legit 21st century arenas and I don’t see how another renovation is going to put Key in the same league as those. I would love to be proved wrong, however.

    Even if the building is something that can be fixed, there is no legitimate traffic solution in the neighborhood. These fantasies of the monorail, drones and ride sharing simply don’t acknowledge reality. People in this city/region drive cars, and will ALWAYS drive cars. The competition for parking will be insanity and people will literally have to wait 1-2 hours to get from the Key to the freeways after a game.

    Finally, the city has given away any negotiating strength by essentially calling SoDo dead. What does OVG have to give away now? They hold all the cards. They can essentially play hardball because they know the city will eventually say yes because they have no other option. Not to mention that the project itself can’t even get started until after the NCAA basketball tournament is held in Key.

    As I stated above, I’ve literally been waiting for a team here for 30 years and, if things come together, of course I’m going to go to watch. I’m a sucker for hockey and will be until the day I die. But, since Murray became mayor of Seattle, this process has been a complete sham. The coup-de-grace was the Port funding the Ladner Overpass a day or so after the council killed SoDo. There really isn’t a more distinct example of politics and money scratching each other’s backs like that one.

    I hope things work out and we’re cheering for an NHL team here within five years. But, I do worry that being short-sighted now will have long-term affects down the line.

  2. I might have gone to SoDo to catch a game. I won’t go to Key Arena. It’s a horrible site for a stadium.

  3. Seattle needs a venue so bad for the NHL and concerts its almost comical. How such a growing progressive city is without one is crazy. I attended the Tom Petty concert last night and it was a complete joke. Not the music, Tom was spot on like always. The venue was horrible. 1 1/2 hours to get into Safeco. Super long lines and inept security. Getting to the floor seats was a disaster.
    More long lines again once in the stadium to get a wrist band for floor access and removal of can beverages sold inside the stadium.
    The lines blocked many views from seeing the Luminers and the start of Petty. All I could think of is how badly Seattle needs a
    stadium for concert and the NHL.

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