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Originally published September 25, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Page modified September 25, 2012 at 4:41 PM

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Editorial: Don’t forget KeyArena in Sodo deal

An optimistic Seattle City Council approved a revised agreement for a proposed Sodo arena, which shines a light on the future of KeyArena.

Seattle Times Editorial

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A quote from Seattle City Council President Sally Clark lays out what is ahead: “Today’s vote closes one phase of tasks and begins another, including work on how we plan for a bright future at Seattle Center.”

Nothing about the modified deal approved Monday with investor Chris Hansen to build a sports and entertainment arena is final until a full environmental review is completed — a review that looks at all the transportation issues that come with putting an arena near an industrial zone and the Port of Seattle; a review that will look at alternative sites for the 18,000-seat basketball and hockey arena.

Yet another quote puts the long-range optimism of the deal in another context:

“Hansen is clearly putting up the bulk of the money, and that almost never happens,” author and blogger Neil deMause noted. “If all that works, that’s fantastic. But I don’t know anyone other than Chris Hansen who thinks the math works out.”

The math seldom works out for public investment in these ventures. It all seems to end in a cloud of dust. Imploding the Kingdome and its virtually new roof comes to mind again. As do the fits with the future of KeyArena and its taxpayer-supported improvements before the NBA declared it not glitzy enough and the Sonics fled town.

KeyArena gets a medium hello in the deal with Hansen, but that hardly holds up. The $7 million in the agreement dwindles to $2 million for KeyArena improvements, because $5 million would exit the building with the Seattle Storm if the professional women’s basketball team finds a new home across town in Sodo.

KeyArena and the neighborhood economy it supports become an afterthought. That “bright future” council president Clark mentioned needs to be better defined.

Well, there is one idea. Another infusion of tax money, $20 million, according to a 2006 study, that could provide some options. So it goes.

The passions to return the NBA to the region run deep. The question to be answered by the environmental review is whether a core piece of the community’s economy, the Port of Seattle and related businesses, must be endangered to make it happen.

The flight from KeyArena does not sit well with those who see the abandonment of substantial public investment to enable the vision of private investors. Imagine how much less fuss there would be if they paid the bills.

This idea is a long ways from settled.


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