Chris Hansen Presses Council to Move Forward on Both Arena Plans

The investor is now pitching his project as a fall-back to the KeyArena renovation.

Chris Hansen tried once again to win support from the Seattle City Council for his SoDo Arena Tuesday, this time pitching it as a backup plan to the KeyArena renovation now being considered.

At an evening hearing dotted with people in basketball and hockey jerseys, Hansen didn’t use any of his two minutes disparaging the KeyArena plan, but said that the city would have nothing to lose by allowing his project to move forward just in case something does not “work out” in Uptown.

“I don’t have anything bad to say about their efforts,” Hansen said of the group bidding to renovate the Key. That hasn’t always been the case. Ever since the city put out a call for bids on renovating KeyArena, Hansen’s group—and its legions of supporters—have been highly critical of the idea, saying that it would hurt Seattle’s chances for a basketball team and cause terrible traffic snarls in the densely populated areas around the arena.

Yet those pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears in City Hall. Many blamed that on former Mayor Ed Murray, who saw a reinvigorated KeyArena as a legacy project; but the City Council has proven to be its own obstacle, with members there skeptical of what effect a SoDo Arena would have on port traffic, and how it would impact revenue at KeyArena, a city property.

Hansen wants the council to reconsider vacating Occidental Avenue south of Safeco Field, which would make his project “shovel ready” in case his group was able to secure a basketball team to fill it. The council denied a similar pitch in 2016, but Hansen argued that it had nothing to lose by moving forward with both arena plans.

He noted that Murray’s resignation could signal a new start to their relationship. “There’s been a changing of the guard at the mayor’s office, so hopefully our request” is given more consideration, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how moved the council was by Hansen’s testimony. The nine-member board is considering whether to authorize a memorandum of understanding with Oak View Group, the preferred partner for renovating KeyArena. Councilmember Debora Juarez said a vote would come sometime in November.

Council chambers were notably less packed than in past hearings concerning Seattle sports arenas. Fitting for a debate over sports, which side people stood on could largely be determined by what kind of jersey they were wearing. Those in Sonics jerseys pressed for a SoDo Arena, saying that it was the plan best suited to bring the NBA back to Seattle.

Nicholas Diamond, a high-schooler from Bainbridge, implored the council to keep the NBA as a top priority when selecting an arena plan.

“I speak for the kids who never got to cheer for the Sonics,” he said.

Those in hockey jerseys, meanwhile, got behind the Key plan, a nod to the greater emphasis OVG has put on bringing the NHL to Seattle with its arena.

Leah Johnson, another high-schooler, said that an NHL team in Seattle would heighten hockey’s visibility in Seattle and encourage more girls like her to join the sport.

“Hockey has changed my life incredibly,” she said.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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