Commentary: My deepest sympathies to OVG and AEG in their KeyArena renovation effort

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We’re now ten days away from the official due date for renovation proposals for KeyArena – and a lot of people have asked me – what’s going to happen?

Here’s the best way to describe it: An uneven playing field with KeyArena up here, and SODO down here. Because KeyArena is a city asset - it’s the priority, plain and simple.

And if I had to guess, KeyArena will be the choice, regardless of opposition from what I expect to be the majority of fans.

All the lip service you hear about comparing the merits of each arena plan – that they’ll be looked at individually without bias – is total baloney. The city has a financial stake in the future of Seattle Center. They don’t have a stake in the SODO plan. For the SODO plan to win, it has to overcome that slanted field one way or another.

Now, I’ve been so busy citing the hypocrisy of the Port of Seattle – which looked even worse this week when it was revealed Commission President Tom Albro owns the company that manages the Seattle Monorail, which will be vital to the KeyArena plan (nice work again, everyone!) – that I haven’t had time to welcome the two groups proposing a KeyArena renovation.

So – welcome Oak View Group and AEG to this wonderful “competition,” and thank you both for your willingness to privately finance the project. And one more thing: You poor unfortunate souls, who actually have to work with the City of Seattle to make your project work. Good luck – and Godspeed.

Because if we’ve learned anything about how this city works, one of these two arena groups will be begging for mercy by the time the whole thing is over!

It was already laughable that both groups have to submit TWO potential plans for KeyArena – one that includes preserving its roof as a historical landmark. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We learned Monday that the city is also expected to file formal paperwork to request landmark status for FIVE MORE spots – for buildings adjacent to KeyArena!

You know – the good ol’ Pottery Northwest and Park Place Buildings, the NASA Building, the Blue Spruce Building and Seattle Center Pavilion. “Hey guys – make sure your arena plans don’t affect any of those buildings either!”

We’ve seen it with Chris Hansen’s plan for five years: The city asks for more and more and more and more concessions until the developer is like “Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding!”

Imagine having a good-willed contractor showing up on your doorstep and offering to refurbish your home for free. And you saying – thank you, but make sure you take your shoes off... and don’t touch the cabinets... or the furniture... or the wallpaper... or the fine china... or the stove in the kitchen. The contingencies would drive the contractor crazy!

My guess? That is what this city is about to do to you, Oak View Group or AEG. I don’t envy you – but I hope you’re ready. Because based on what we’ve seen before with SODO, this city doesn’t know how to say “Thank You,” it only knows how to say, “What Else?”

Yes, it’s frustrating. But it’s also somewhat entertaining. So whatever happens, prepare yourself to enjoy the next few months, watching a city as it tries to fit a square peg into a round hole and continually step all over itself in the way of progress like it always seems to do.

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