Yesterday AEG withdrew its proposal to renovate Key Arena for concerts and for potential NBA and NHL partners. I believe this was a direct consequence of a process being rushed for political purposes. Taxpayers, and NBA and NHL fans deserve better.
Whether you support the SODO Arena, a Key Arena renovation, or none of the above, this news should be concerning. For the record, I support approving the street vacation in SODO, the last step to make that arena shovel-ready. I have also supported the process for looking at options at Key Arena to determine if new proposals can meet our objectives.
But the Key Arena RFP process appears to be closing off options, not opening up new ones. AEG claims the process has been rushed, unfair and not transparent. So they are withdrawing their proposal.
This has been a concern I have voiced for some time. An arena proposal takes time, not just for a mayoral administration to review a proposal, but for the city council and public to have their turn too.
When we submitted a proposed SODO arena deal to the city council, we also appointed an expert review panel. The deal points were open and transparent. Most importantly, in response to public concerns, the proposal underwent revision. By the end, it was a stronger proposal that won council approval.
The Key Arena renovation proposals should go through a similar process. The city needs to fully understand the potential costs to the city, impacts to the neighborhood and traffic, and the likelihood that the renovation will lead to new teams. That process will take time and thorough analysis.
My biggest concern now is that the city will rush to the one remaining proposal at Key Arena and declare the SODO arena dead, without fully understanding the effects of the decision. The worst case scenario would to then have that final Key proposal run into difficulty because we failed to fully vet it. At that point, every option would have been bungled.
It’s time to hit pause on the Key Arena process. Make the process open. Give the bidders the opportunity to improve their offers. Fully analyze traffic, neighborhood and city budget impacts. And then make a reasoned decision that protects city interests and gives us the best chance to get the Sonics back, win an NHL team, and have the type of concert facilities that make sense for our city. Rushing this is the wrong way to go.