KeyArena renovation plan gains support at City Hall

SEATTLE — It’s a clear message and consensus at Seattle’s City Hall.

If you want a team, or maybe two, this is the way.

“Yes, we can have outside, private money come in and invest, reshape and help re-imagine KeyArena,” said the city’s development leader Brian Surratt.

The council's standing room-only hearing Monday was the first public examination of the Memorandum of Understanding between Oakview Group (OVG) and the city for the $600 million arena renovation.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien isn't sold yet.

“(There’s) A real fear about what the traffic impacts are going to be and making sure we get that right,” he said.

OVG is giving the city $40 million for transportation fixes. But here's the catch -- it's not a lump sum and will be doled out of 39 years.

That equates to a little over a million dollars, adding to a Seattle Department of Transportation budget of $440 million.

A big concern for some fans.

“A light rail at KeyArena is 17 years away. My 2-year-old will be a sophomore in college by then. That's a lifetime in the arena world,” said one Sodo arena supporter.

But the council has major buy-in from nearly everyone affected by a KeyArena re-do.

Including NHL fans.

“I love the example that you're showing to the rest of North America on structuring public-private partnerships in arena deals,” said John Barr of the group NHL to Seattle.

The Seattle Storm will will be booted during the remodel and likely head to the University of Washington for two seasons. Their management support the end result.

“We have played through an arena not being well-maintained. This is a huge opportunity for the city that should not be underestimated,” said Storm owner Ginny Gilder.

The city and OVG still need to complete an environmental study and take a stab at traffic studies.

There will also be some employment problems for workers currently at the Key. OVG will help offset some paychecks, but details are still murky.

“It was clearly said that not all of us will keep our jobs. There are around 320 of us. And to think that we will all lose those positions is difficult for me,” said one worker.

There are promises that the jobs will be waiting when the Key is ready for its rebirth.

The temporary pain is coming, with a free ticket for Seattle taxpayers.

The council wants a vote before the end of the year. OVG wants to break ground in 2018 and complete the arena refit in 2020.