Get severe weather alerts, track the forecast hour-by-hour: Download our free news & weather apps
Watch the 110th Apple Cup Saturday on Q13 FOX

Seattle Arena Debate: Where the mayoral candidates stand on NBA/NHL and arena location

SEATTLE -- Ballots for the primary election will be mailed this Wednesday. We reached out to the Seattle mayoral candidates to get their take on the Seattle arena debate and the possible return of the NBA/NHL to Seattle.

For reference, here is what we presented to each candidate:

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

4. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a taxpayer liability in the future? What are the other challenges in favoring a SODO Plan over KeyArena?

If you don’t want to answer the specific questions, would you mind at least providing a general statement regarding the arena situation?

Here are the responses we've received so far, in alphabetical order:

Gary Brose

(Official website)

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

Absolutely! I am a huge sports fan and I feel our city MUST have representation in all major sports leagues. We definitely need to bring back the Sonics and an NHL team would be terrific. I know I'd be there.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

I think the SODO plan needs a little rework on the ancillary costs but I'm a businessman and Chris Hansen is too. I believe we could resolve those issue. SODO is far better as an access point and general location. I have talked to the Port and am aware of their issues, but I believe they can be resolved with some changes. Key Arena and the Center are not easily accessible and will cause serious traffic issues for the residents there and event-goers.

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

I don't believe that the access issues at the Seattle Center are resolvable at this time.

4. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a liability?

As Seattle grows, I  believe the Key Arena roof is not truly "iconic" and should not necessarily be preserved.   I think the Center is better served by "An all day attraction", such as an Indoor Amusement Park, which draws visitors all day rather than during one 3-hour period.  That would spread traffic out over a 12-14 hour period and lesson the impact. The City could sell the rights to the land and allow a developer to build their attraction and manage it. The tax revenues could replace Key Arena without the risk.

Jenny Durkan

(Official website)

I grew up a Sonics fan and I’m still a Sonics fan. I want an NBA team back in Seattle. I am for whatever proposal gets the Sonics here the fastest.

Jessyn Farrell

(Official website)

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

Putting Seattle back on the path to bringing back the Sonics is a high priority of mine, and I will be committed to seeing that happen.

As most Gen Xers who grew up here can attest, there was a time when little else could rival the spectacle and the excitement of the Seattle SuperSonics in the late 1980s and 90s. It was the Payton-Kemp era, and I would wager to say that duo could hold their own against any other NBA matchup ever. I still hope to one day see NBA players wearing Sonics uniforms again, as Squatch throws down some halftime trampoline jams.

In order for that to happen though, we need a world-class facility to house them and a possible NHL team, as well as any future Pearl Jam concerts.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

It is my opinion that a SODO arena is the best option for the city, and I have supported their proposal over a Key Arena alternative. I’d also like to add that the dogged commitment by Chris Hansen's group is really to be commended - it is a true testament to how much they love this city and long for the Sonics to return.

SODO is the one area of the city that is used to a massive influx of people regularly, and has the infrastructure to handle it, from the parking lots, to mass transit and light rail stops within a couple of blocks. That, in my mind, is enough reason to pick SODO over Seattle Center.

To do so, I am in favor of approving the Occidental Avenue Street vacation. I believe we can install another world-class facility there, and with added investments in our freight mobility infrastructure, we can minimize any impacts on the commerce flowing in and out of the Port of Seattle.

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

I remain very skeptical that the Key Arena proposal is our city's best option. Key Arena is a city asset, the argument goes, and we cannot let it be a drain on the budget.

However, the infrastructure around Key Arena would be strained to the max were an NBA and NHL team to take up home at a new arena located there. With little else but some bus lines, Queen Anne can no longer absorb the influx of fans from across the region. Let’s not forget that the NBA or NHL wouldn’t just draw fans in Seattle who could find alternative ways to the games - a plausible fan base for these teams could stretch 60 miles in every direction from the arena, adding possibly hundreds more cars to our downtown roads, all of which would need a place to park until mass transit is improved.

4. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a taxpayer liability in the future? What are the other challenges in favoring a SODO Plan over KeyArena?

While I support the SODO Arena plan, I am happy to see progress being made on the future of Key Arena, it is sitting on some of our city’s most valuable property and is an asset to this city that needs to be modernized and utilized to its fullest potential. We must also take a close look at how the infrastructure around Seattle Center can be improved if we want to attract more visitors not just from within the city but also the tourists who come to spend the day or an entire vacation in our city, and ensure we do not impose a negative impact on the community and the businesses in the area.

5. In response to the fact that she signed a letter from 40 state legislators opposing the SODO street vacation last year: At the time, I didn't feel there was adequate mitigation for freight mobility, but... I still believe it’s a better alternative than the Key Arena proposal. We can make SODO work with added investments in freight mobility to ensure commerce isn't disrupted at the Port.

Greg Hamilton

(Official website)

I wouldn't call the idea of Key Arena one of my major campaign points, but it is a perfect example of one of my main points: the arrogant, idiotic leadership we keep electing

It’s an example of past failed city leadership that lost the team in the first place, along with a prime example of the greed of carpetbaggers with ZERO loyalty to the people of Seattle that sold the team, instead of sticking it out for the people. From the losing of the Sonics to this new Key Arena boondoggle you can see in one subject everything that is wrong with our “ruling elites” and has been wrong with them for decades.

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

I fully support both. I support private industry risking their own money in nearly any way they wish. I support the sports fans who want the Sonics back, while at the same time fully supporting the non-sports fans who don’t want to pay for it or be caught in its traffic.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

SODO is the only realistic option. It's the hub for ALL of our modes of transportation. It has parking. It's being offered to be built with private money. It's a win in every way, Key Arena is a lose in every way.

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

I attended Sounders games at Key Arena nearly FORTY years ago! Concerts 30-some years ago. It was a great arena then, for the size of our city then, it's a horrible venue now. There is not sufficient parking and people that live in Queen Anne and Magnolia already can't get home. The traffic there is one of our largest current boondoggles. Thinking KeyArena is a viable option is pure magical thinking.

4. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a taxpayer liability in the future? What are the other challenges in favoring a SODO Plan over KeyArena?

I’m not sure what we do with Key Arena, but spending 550 million (which will balloon into 750 minimum) isn’t the answer. Throwing good money after bad isn’t the answer. We can’t get caught in the prior investment fallacy of thinking we MUST save the arena just because we already own it. Seattle Center has turned into the “arts” I’m sure we can find something excellent to do with it, we have lots of smart people, just no smart leadership.

Michael Harris

Taken straight from his website: My father, Chris Harris, was the first English-born player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). In my family, we call him "the trivia question." I love the NBA! I was born with a basketball in my hand. The Sonics were stolen from us and we lost a piece of our economy and cultural identity. I WILL BRING THE SONICS BACK TO SEATTLE, on our terms. I've long supported any option that doesn't ask for direct public money, and that advances the economic development of our city and truly gives us a fighting chance to return our venerable franchise here.

We began with three competing options — two plans to renovate KeyArena and one to build a new arena in SoDo — and as with basketball itself, competition proved to be a good thing. The process was yielding new information every day, positive and negative, and new mitigations and opportunities that to me were exciting. Seattle found itself in the 4th quarter of this important debate and in my opinion and that of so many others in this town, the SoDo option had the lead and the ball — largely because it played the game right. Over time it adequately addressed concerns about potential impacts to our longshoremen, and offered to mitigate any potential negative impacts to KeyArena, an important civic asset. Good people got behind the SoDo project, and it was clearly the preferred option for both the NBA and NHL. The only ask the SoDo group made was for reasonable tax breaks from the city, and reform of our B&O tax that I already support. There couldn't be a better spot for an arena. The best place for Seattle to grow isn't an already-congested Lower Queen Anne but to the south, to SoDo, where undoubtedly the building of a world-class facility like this would be a boon to our economic development — and perhaps even yield additional housing, both for our middle- and low-income residents, maybe even our homeless. The mass transit and traffic infrastructure is there. All things were in place. And then… Mayor Ed Murray took the ball and ran home. In a clear rush to create a "legacy" before depositions on his sexual abuse lawsuit may force him to resign, he expedited and corrupted the process, negotiated in extremely bad faith with all parties, and then pushed through perhaps the worst plan on the table, the Oak View Group (OVG) proposal to renovate KeyArena – which involves significant public funding, constricts an important neighborhood in Seattle, offers no real economic development to the city or an opportunity to address other pressing issues like housing availability, and most importantly, offers no real chance of bringing the NBA back to Seattle.

On the day of his decision to send the OVG KeyArena proposal to City Council for a vote, Murray went on live radio to explain himself, sharing a litany of shocking things – first, when asked if being a lame duck Mayor has changed the way he governs now, Murray said yes, "it means I can be more open and honest now." He corrected himself immediately saying that "well, I've always been open and honest." He hasn't been, by many accounts, among other things being accused in a statement from the Seattle Group that he withheld "critical financial portions of Oak View Group's proposal from the public… raising serious questions about the integrity of the decision-making process and the ability of the public to make a fair and equitable comparison." I agree.

When asked about the concerns of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood and others about traffic congestion, Murray dismissed them outright, saying that Lower Queen Anne is now, according to him, a walking neighborhood and people will simply go to games by foot. All Sonics fans live within walking distance of KeyArena, by that logic. Then in an extraordinary moment of self-importance, he said that he was resolved not to let anyone try to disempower him to make executive decisions he's entitled to while he's still in City Hall, comparing himself to Barack Obama and how our former President wasn't allowed to get a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. Murray went on to make a particularly inexplicable comment, saying that as a gay man that he came into office "with a lot of stereotypes" and that he felt that by making this decision now that he believed would be the fastest track to bringing back the NBA and getting an NHL franchise, that this would "dispel some of those stereotypes." In other words, the debate about sports arenas in Seattle somehow was about his sexual orientation. It's not. We are post-orientation in Seattle, and that is best conveyed by one bumper sticker symbol -- =, the equal sign. All of our residents are equal, gay or straight, and no particular group should be more equal than others, and certainly, no critical economic development decision should ever be addressed in the context of who we are or who we love. Lastly, in perhaps the most telling comment Murray made on that live radio show, he recounted a brief, impressionable discussion he had with the current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who told him to forget it, "we're not coming to Seattle." And our elected leader of this great city accepted that call. He went with a KeyArena proposal with a business plan that claims it doesn't need pro sports to pay for itself – but in fact, it very much does. In just one chat with the Commissioner of a professional sport our Mayor admittedly doesn't care about, Murray quit. He gave up on getting our Sonics back. As the next Mayor and a person deeply connected to the NBA and a huge fan of the sport, and as someone who understands what we lost when another flawed Mayor dribbled the ball off his knee and allowed 40+ years of NBA history to be stolen away to Oklahoma City, I WILL NEVER QUIT ON GETTING OUR SONICS BACK TO SEATTLE. And I won't quit on the SoDo Arena. This game isn't over.

Bob Hasegawa

(Official website)

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

Can Fred Brown shoot a 3-pointer? YES! Let’s absolutely bring the NBA and/or the NHL back to Seattle.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

I am in favor of whatever plan gets the NBA and/or NHL back as quickly as possible. With both the Key Arena and SODO plan, I think there will be massive hurdles that will delay any efforts to bring the teams back to the area. I personally support the Renton/Tukwila location, i.e. the old Longacres site. It is ideally situated from a transportation accessibility perspective and doesn’t present the negative impacts of the other two sites. We’d get all the benefits of having our Sonics back without the negatives, and much more quickly.

Mike McGinn

(Official website)

1. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other?

I support granting a street vacation for the SODO Arena, the last step for it to be shovel ready. All the pieces will then be in place for that group of local investors to seek a team from the NBA. I worked to get the arena proposal approved by City Council, and supported the street vacation request when it went before the City Council. That was a crucial moment when elected officials let us down, including the forty state legislators who wrote a letter opposing it. I still believe the SODO plan is a good one, have consistently supported it, and will continue to do so.

I am glad that we are looking at Key Arena as an option, but there remain a lot of unanswered questions. In particular, what will be the cost to Seattle, how much risk is Seattle taking on with respect to overruns, what revenue streams would the city lose, what are the transportation and other neighborhood impacts, and finally, what is the commitment of Oak View Group to obtain a team.

2. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a taxpayer liability in the future? What are the other challenges in favoring a SODO Plan over KeyArena?

One of the components of the SODO Arena deal was to do a study of Key Arena to determine how it could be reconfigured for the future. I believe there is a path to having a venue at Seattle Center that complements the SODO Arena and continues its contribution to Seattle Center.

We also have to recognize that SODO Arena is not the only threat to the Key. Bellevue and Tukwila have looked at options to build state of the art arenas. That would be the worst result for Seattle, and might happen if the city mismanages the arena situation.

Cary Moon

(Official website)

Statement on Arena: I support the return of the NBA to Seattle. We should plan for the arrival of NHL, but it shouldn’t make or break a deal that allows the return of the NBA. As mayor, I think it is important that we look at all of our options and negotiate what is best for the public good. There are many details to balance to get there.

I’m for civic activities at Seattle Center, for infill development, for reuse of historic buildings (or roofs), for expanding transit service, for protecting industrial land, and supporting the growth of family-wage industrial jobs and locally owned businesses. These are the general principles guiding my thinking.

If we can do the Seattle Center arena proposal with minimal public money, secure the public’s fair share of the profit stream, figure out sufficient transit service to the venue and not build another parking garage, guarantee the venue will be operated in the public interest (ie local festivals, and the Storm and the Sonics have priority use over corporate mega-concerts), and if we can protect KEXP and Vera Project and other awesome civic facilities and activities already there, then I am in favor of this proposal.

If we can’t make a publicly beneficial deal at Seattle Center work, then let’s try to figure out how to make SODO work without taking industrial land, threatening the viability of industrial uses, or adding, even more, challenges to freight mobility. The arena itself could work there with the right transit and street improvements (and no new parking), but their long-term plan for building an entertainment zone is too much.

James Norton

(Official website)

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

I do on both accounts. I was very sad to see the Sonics leave, especially the way they did. I love hockey as I grew up in Detroit watching the Red Wings. I want both sports franchise here and would work to make it happen ASAP.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

I live on lower Queen Anne and think that Key Arena could host either an NHL team or NBA team but I don't think it's the best option. I think parking is a huge issue, especially with some large tech companies moving into the area soon. SODO seems a more likely area. It would be nice to have our sports complexes all in the same area. As well as the land being proposed would be funded mostly privately.

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

As I stated parking is the big issue. There are more residential people and buildings in the area. I can't see this as a good option. The residents pay a lot of money to live in this area and then to make them contend with possibly 2 professional sports teams/fans and traffic associated with it I think is asking a lot. Also, the Key IMO is a better place for smaller venues. I don't want to have to expand it so it would loose some of its historic significance. I don't think they can. I know that the developers plan on reroute games traffic and that would be a nightmare. The "Mercer" mess took almost ten years and it is IMO no better now.

4. If you support the SODO Arena plan, what would you do to make sure KeyArena does not become a taxpayer liability in the future? What are the other challenges in favoring a SODO Plan over KeyArena?

Well from what I have read about the proposal from the OVG L. Lopes he stated clearly that the developers would pay for the project themselves. There has to be a contingency plan in writing if the project goes over budget so the cost is not put onto taxpayers.

Also if the SODO project happens I would want some clause in the contract since they want it to be privatized so that their building can only be used for sports teams for a certain time period and they couldn't lure away possible business from Key Arena. Say like a 10-year clause.

The Storm just resigned their contract to play their games there and I talked to a representative about them moving if the SODO plan was a "GO" and she said the storm is staying where they are for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of events still planned within KeyArena.

Nikkita Oliver

(Official website)

I am a Hoosier. In Indiana basketball is in our drinking water. I strongly support the return of the Sonics to Seattle, and I look forward to rooting for an NHL team. Though I love basketball, I also know it is pertinent that we plan for all the possibilities ahead with a vision for prosperity and an approach grounded in equity.

I do not support building a new arena in the SODO because keeping SODO an industrial area supports a long-term sustainable vision for Seattle. It preserves maritime jobs and supports environmental and ecological restoration already happening in this area. Seattle already faces density issues. Building an arena in SODO would remove much-needed industrial land in our city -- meaning factories as well as the environmental risk factors that accompany them spread into existing residential areas, displacing people and creating public health risks.

The Key Arena Renovation Plan is a practical approach that expands upon existing infrastructure. In addition to creating local jobs and preserving our city’s history, the restoration of the Key Arena also represents an opportunity to reshape city land usage and construction in a more equitable way. Too often development opportunities oversaw by the city end up favoring the few who already have access and capital.

When considering city development, we must be thoughtful about our approach to awarding contracts: which companies acquire them, how many groups respond to the RFP and, if the contract for construction goes through, ensuring that access to the subsequent job opportunities is fair and just. We must ensure the hiring of construction jobs require that those Seattleites frequently not represented as subcontractors and workers receive jobs, compensation, and working conditions which honor their human dignity and the skills they offer. In a city so prosperous as ours, we should never allow profits to be prioritized over workers’ rights.

Whatever the city decides, we must also ensure that those jobs created from events at the arena are unionized and workers have access to livable wages and positive working conditions. The hospitality industry and the workers therein have long been underrepresented and deserve to be treated justly -- including a liveable wage and good working conditions negotiated for by a union.

A Key Arena renovation will almost certainly exacerbate transportation issues; especially considering the sort of public draw and traffic having regular NBA (and possibly NHL) games creates for a city. That’s why any approved plan must include ways to mitigate traffic and streamline how fans and spectators get to their events with minimal impact on the residents nearby.

Jason Roberts

(Official website)

The issue is one that resonates with me not only as a sports fan, but one who is engaged in Seattle politics. I am happy to go on the record that if I am elected, I will green light the SODO Arena Plan.

1. Do you support the return of the NBA to Seattle and/or the NHL coming to Seattle?

I fully support the return of the Sonics and would welcome the addition of an NHL team. Sports are a unifying force in our city, bringing people from all communities together in common interest.

2. Do you favor the KeyArena Renovation Plan or the SODO Arena Plan, and WHY do you favor one over the other? Or if you don’t support either plan, why not?

I favor the SODO plan. It is clearly the most practical location for traffic and parking and it uses no taxpayer money. I believe the impact on the port and the street vacation of Occidental will be minor. Also, the suggested modifications for the Key do not convince me that it provides the best chance of acquiring a team.

3. If you support the KeyArena plan, what are the biggest challenges that plan faces – and can those challenges be overcome?

I feel that the city's choice in the Key Arena plan has more to do with getting a free renovation than it does with acquiring an NBA and an NHL team. That said, public money is not off the table with the Key plan. This could send us down a familiar path of budget quagmires. It is my opinion that the Key is doing fine and operating at a profit with its current lineup of WNBA games and concerts.

I think the challenge for either plan is in landing an NBA team. The current disparity of talent and quality in the market make expansion unlikely in the foreseeable future. The bright side would be that an NHL team would be well received in Seattle and would be a much more imminent possibility.