Commentary: City leadership is a big reason to be wary of a KeyArena renovation

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This weekend was another reminder why I love this city. I love its beauty. Its vibrance. Its diversity. Its sports fans.

I do not love the surge in homelessness. The soaring rents. The taxes on the taxes you paid on the taxes from that thing you bought. And for the sake of this conversation, I do not love navigating the city during rush hour on a Friday afternoon – or any afternoon for that matter.

Which brings me to the two biggest reasons I’m wary of a KeyArena renovation: Its location, and that the City of Seattle is involved.

More specifically, I’m confident in Oak View Group’s ability to build a state-of-the art arena that’s fit for concerts and meets the NHL and NBA’s standards for a future team. That’s never been an issue. The issues are parking and transportation in Lower Queen Anne, and the fact that it’s a city asset being renovated on city-owned property.

Once again, I present to you two high-ranking officials: the head of the Seattle Department of Transportation and the mayor, addressing transportation around KeyArena:

“We’ve untangled the Mercer Mess and I don’t think anybody would argue it works perfectly...” Scott Kubly said.

“Remember, within the decade – just over the decade – there will be a light rail station that will come here,” Mayor Ed Murray said.

What alternate universe do these people live in? The Mercer Mess, untangled? Mayor Murray touting Light Link Rail’s arrival to Lower Queen Anne in just over a decade when it’s really 18 years away?

How can you ask us to “see the big picture” but fail to mention that Expedia is moving in down the street with 8,000 new employees in 2019 with Facebook and Google moving into South Lake Union the next few years? Add that to a more concentrated Queen Anne thanks to potential Upzone plans, and that should make for a pleasant rush-hour/game-time convergence with arena patrons coming into town!

And how can you ask us to trust this city to have a hand in such a large-scale project, when we’ve watched the massive delays, overspending and general incompetence over the last ten years, from the three-year-delayed Tunnel Project, to the Seawall, to the Mercer Mess, to the failed Pronto Bikeshare Program, and even the homeless problem getting worse? When you have multiple chances to get things right, how can we trust the city in this process, especially in a location that we all know has gridlock and frustration already written all over it?

(From Field of Dreams): “If you build it, they will come.”

Ah, my other favorite argument. Yes, if you build it they might come – but it also might be easier to get from Enumclaw to Ray Kinsella’s baseball stadium in the Iowa cornfields than to a renovated KeyArena for a 7 o’clock puck drop or tip-off on a Wednesday or Thursday night!

And when you tell me, “All I want is an NBA or NHL team in Seattle - beggars can’t be choosers,” I say, yes, we CAN be choosers. Because there’s a viable privately-funded arena plan in a much better location with current access to light rail, ferries, busses, and the convergence of major freeways, not to mention parking. And it’s an arena plan that won’t take place on city property with the city dictating this or that, or Seattle Center’s multiple stakeholders meddling at every turn.

I hope you get my point: The city has sat on its hands for a decade to solve the KeyArena issue. In that time, it’s proven how incompetent it can be at other major projects.

A KeyArena renovation might bring pro sports back to Seattle – and if that’s the choice, I hope it does. But given there’s another solution waiting in the wings, stop being so stubborn and leading us all down a road (in my opinion and based on recent history) bound to have major delays and ineptitude along the way.

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