A Rainier Valley solution to Seattle's quest for an NBA/NHL arena
The debate over a new basketball and hockey arena is centered on the wrong location. Rainier Valley, not Sodo, would be a more beneficial site for fans and the community at large, write guest columnists Richard McIver and David Essig.
Special to The Times
IN the discussion over a new basketball and hockey arena for Seattle, we believe an essential factor is missing in the so-called "Sodo solution" — vision. Our solution, by contrast, offers a grand vision, with broader benefits to the community.
Let's consider Rainier Valley — specifically the approximately two-and-a-half-acre triangle at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South, Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South McClellan Street.
We suggest building an elevated civic center over the existing bus transit center, providing elevated walkways to the light-rail station and other major destinations, such as Lowe's, QFC and Franklin High School.
This would create a world-class "Sports, Arts, Civic and Economic Center," or SPACE Center. It would create an aboveground link between the bus-transfer and light-rail stations. It would support the "bow tie" redesign of the area road network the city is currently researching.
Structured parking west of the Mount Baker light-rail station could support event parking at night and commercial businesses and commuter parking during the day. Additional parking could be provided by others.
The SPACE Center recaptures the vision of the 1962 World's Fair, evoking themes of the Space Needle and the monorail, iconic symbols of Seattle. Views of Mount Rainier, the city skyline and the mountains would be spectacular. The location has historic precedence, adjacent to former Sick's Stadium.
The SPACE Center could incorporate a multicultural center on the ground level, as well as a separate youth/community center — a true "civic center."
It would strengthen transit-oriented development, blending high-density development with public transportation, bikeways and pedestrian walkways. It would be consistent with the recently adopted North Rainier Neighborhood Plan, a high-density urban village that needs a major catalyst.
This area offers excellent access to the metropolitan area. With the extension of light rail to the University of Washington, access will improve to the north. It will grow over time with the expansion of light rail to the east.
The Interstate 90 ramp, just north of the site, provides excellent bus and car access to the east. Access from the south is good, with numerous I-5 exits to the area. Existing transit corridors to Renton and Tukwila are in place. Numerous routes are available from West Seattle.
This area is evolving as a sophisticated transit corridor. It does not have the traffic challenges from the existing stadiums and at-grade rail crossings in Sodo.
Public-private investment would result in significant leveraging for major commercial development. Several large parcels controlled by private investors would see accelerated activity. Artist lofts are already moving forward. Public and private funds should be available for additional parcel assemblage. Demand would lead to new services such as offices, hotels and retail.
Significant planning for the area has already been undertaken by the city, Sound Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council. The city has recently completed its neighborhood-planning efforts for this area. Sound Transit has performed various studies as part of its development of the Mount Baker station. PSRC is preparing a regional analysis of the light-rail corridor. These resources can be quickly marshaled to support a comprehensive plan for a "Rainier Valley solution."
Finally, the multiplier effect would be greater than a third sports venue in Sodo. Beyond the economic impacts, locating the SPACE Center in the Rainier Valley would be an inspiration to the youth and provide additional support for the multicultural community and residents in the Rainier Valley and beyond.
Vision, location, catalyst, timing — our proposal merits consideration as the best arena solution for the city, county and the various constituents of our community.Richard McIver, left, is a former member of the Seattle City Council. David Essig is director of community development at the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund.