Emails raise questions whether Port of Seattle considered buying up Sodo arena site

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SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council vote to reject the proposed vacating of a block of Occidental Avenue in the city's Sodo district was a devastating blow to former Sonics fans and a relief to the Port of Seattle.

The port is a strong opponent of the plan to build another sports arena in the Sodo district, saying the added traffic could hinder truckers moving goods to and from the port.

But now a reporter with Publicola says he`s uncovered a chain of emails that show the port may have been looking to move its headquarters to Sodo.

“It calls into question their argument about we don`t want to commercialize this area, here they were looking at the area, bringing in 800 employees, a parking garage, when their concern was traffic for visitors and employees,” reporter Josh Feit said.

Through a public disclosure request, Feit uncovered the port had paid $45,000 to study the idea and one of the proposed locations on its list was the very site investor Chris Hansen purchased for an arena near Occidental Avenue.

“The email conversations I’ve uncovered shows they were talking about this project up until March; I don`t know if it’s simply billing for the work the consultant firm had done, or if they were still active,” Feit said.

Port authorities declined to speak on camera on Monday but a spokesperson says the port briefly considered the idea last summer but the exploratory process went nowhere. The spokesperson was adamant the port did not request Hansen’s property, that it was a real estate company that included the site as one of many possible options.

“The port can spin this as no big deal. The fact is these rounds of email discoveries show they are disingenuous in their claims,” said Adam Brown, producer of the documentary film Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team.

Brown says he`s suspicious of the port`s motive.

“It`s a territory war to see who gets to develop Sodo,” Brown said.

Council member Lisa Herbold, one of five who voted against the arena, says she was not aware of the port`s assessment of Hansen`s property. But her colleague Mike O Brien, who voted in favor of the arena, says he doesn’t believe the emails would have changed the final vote.

“I don`t think there is an appetite here to jump back into this anytime soon,” O’Brien said.

That may be painful for Sonics fans to hear but they are not giving up quite yet.

“Sonics fans are trying to keep hope alive,” Browns said.

Since the 5-4 vote against the arena, the female council members who voted against the arena have received a lot of backlash, even hate mail. But on Monday, Herbold told Q13 News that they have received overwhelming support that outweighs the unfortunate behavior of a vocal minority.