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Hansen's Sonics Arena group proposes privately funded redesign of KeyArena

The proposed Seattle Center Amphitheater. (Photo courtesy Sonics Arena group)
The proposed Seattle Center Amphitheater. (Photo courtesy Sonics Arena group)
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SEATTLE -- Seattle investor Chris Hansen said in June he was not opposed to having two arenas in Seattle should approvals be backed by City Council. Those two arenas are now closer to becoming more than just an idea.

Hansen's Sonics Arena group announced a proposal Thursday to the City of Seattle to privately finance a redevelopment of KeyArena.

Hansen and his team of investors are making an offer to privately fund a reconstruction of KeyArena into a multi-venue site, according to the proposal.

The plan would follow the group's proposed plan for a privately-funded SoDo Arena, which would be built in the SoDo neighborhood with the intention to lure an NBA team back to Seattle.

Nothing has been decided by the city yet regarding the SoDo Arena. The Oak View Group from Los Angeles proposed a half-billion dollar privately-financed plan for the south Seattle arena, which the city is also considering.

Hansen has been trying for years to bring the Seattle SuperSonics back to town after they left for Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008.

Hansen's group, which is led by members of the Nordstrom family, former Sonics player Wally Walker and Seahwaks quarterback Russell Wilson, said their KeyArena proposal offers an ideal solution for continued success of Seattle Center.

The redesign would break KeyArena up into three venues: The SoDo Sports Arena, The Seattle Center Concert Venue and The Seatte Center Amphitheater.

"We believe these new venues would be a perfect complement to the larger SoDo Arena's 16,000-21,000-seat flexible capacity. It would also address the City's need for a mid-size concert venue and amphitheater," the group said in their proposal. "We believe the combination of a completely new and modern SoDo sports arena and the new Seattle Center Venues is vastly superior to a single, site-challenged sports venue at KeyArena."

The proposed KeyArena plan would break up the site in half as a 6,200-seat indoor concert venue and a 3,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. There would also be space for a 500-seat theater, according to the proposal.

The plan also details an additional 500 parking spaces below the venues, which the proposal said would help reduce traffic and transportation impacts around the area.

The Sonics Arena group also emphasized that the re-purposed KeyArena would give the city an interim solution to host an NBA or NHL team.

"If KeyArena was demolished, we do not believe there is an alternative venue in the area that would meet either league's standards," the group wrote in the proposal.

Hansen and his team reiterated that they would welcome the opportunity to work with an NHL partner to host hockey at the SoDo Arena.

The Sonics Arena group and the City of Seattle signed a 5-year Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 that would require the city and county to put up $200 million in public funds once the NBA committed to bringing a team back to Seattle.

The project hit a road block in May 2016 when the city refused to vacate a critical part of Occidental Avenue that was needed for SoDo arena development.

Hansen's group said in their proposal they would not seek any public financing or public subsidies except for negotiating a mutual long-term ground lease for the KeyArena site.

"Now, with the MOU expiring in December and the City evaluating a plan to develop KeyArena into a publicly subsidized sports area, we felt compelled to offer an alternative solution that we believe better meets the needs of the City, the Seattle Center, and the Lowe Queen Anne neighborhood and prospective professional sports' tenants," Hansen's group wrote in the proposal.

In response to the group's proposal, the Seattle Office of Economic Development issued a statement Thursday saying that if the group was interested in redeveloping KeyArena, they should have submitted the plan by the city's April 12 request for proposal deadline.

The City said in their statement they are "well underway negotiating a MOU with Oak View Group, and plan to transmit the MOU to Seattle City Council shortly."

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