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Seattle one step closer to NHL team after arena plan approved

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena, clearing one of the last major hurdles in the city's bid to land an expansion NHL franchise.

The 8-0 vote was the last step needed to complete Seattle's expansion application in time to potentially field a team for the 2020-21 season.

Seattle Hockey Partners, the ownership group attempting to land the expansion team, is set to present before the NHL Board of Governors' Executive Committee next week.

The council approval ended a more than decade-long struggle to find an arena solution. Issues with KeyArena ultimately led to the Seattle SuperSonics' move following the 2008 season to Oklahoma City, where the franchise was rebranded as the Thunder.

The final scheduled event for the arena in its current state is an Oct. 5 NBA exhibition game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

The council approved the Oak View Group's plan to privately finance the deal to renovate KeyArena. OVG will commit to the Seattle Center site for 39 years and spend $40 million on transportation mitigation. It has also committed $10 million to YouthCare, in addition to paying for the relocation of the businesses affected by the construction.

“Today is a historic day for the future of our city and the New Arena at Seattle Center," said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group. "We are one step closer to transforming an iconic landmark into a state-of-the-art arena that sets a new global standard at no risk to the city or taxpayers, while still preserving the soul, character, and honoring the champions of an arena that has given Seattle so much."

“In many ways, today’s Full Council vote is the closing chapter of a story 14 years in the making,” said Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez, (North Seattle, District 5) and co-chair of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas. “I am so proud of this moment and what it represents, including our history with both the Sonics and our future with the World Champion Seattle Storm, a proposal which could ultimately lead to over a billion dollars in private investment in Seattle Center.

"We have achieved a feat rarely seen in the construction of sports stadiums - a public-private partnership where the taxpaying public doesn’t pay for arena construction. I am proud to have played my part in the creation of a world-class asset for our city," she said.