Anyone expecting a complete transportation/parking explainer for the proposed remodel of KeyArena by the time a potential development deal is signed in December will be disappointed. That was the noteworthy takeaway Monday from the first meeting of a Seattle City Council committee vetting Mayor Ed Murray’s preferred development partner.
The Select Committee on Civic Arenas quizzed Brian Surratt, point man on the city’s partnership with Oak View Group, winner in June of the upgrade bid for the 55-year-0ld building owned by the city. Council member Lorena Gonzalez asked Surratt about the time frame for the project’s most controversial element — moving people in and out of an urban neighborhood much more dense than when NBA games were last played there in 2008.
“A fully baked transportation management plan, we should not expect to see that in (a memorandum of understanding),” Surratt said, according to a story on King5.com. “I think what you can expect to see is a level of commitment from OVG and the city to develop a process to develop that fully baked transportation management.”
For those scoring at home, that’s two process developments for one part of the arena plan in process-heavy Seattle government.
“A project as complicated as this, ” said Surratt, “we’re not going to come up with a laundry list of projects to fund in the next two months to put a price tag on those items.”
Council member Rob Johnson seemed unimpressed with the answer, saying, “at the very minimum, a dollar figure from the private sector” was needed to help the council render a judgment on the transportation solution.
Murray said he wants a decision from the council by Sept. 12 so that he can strike a deal with OVG before he leaves office Dec. 31. He has spoken publicly about his desire to have the commitment to a Key remodel as part of his mayoral legacy.
Discussion of the rival for the Key remodel, Chris Hansen’s five-year pursuit of an arena in Sodo, was not on the Monday agenda, which went for 90 minutes (with comments from the public) only on the OVG plan. But two news developments gave Hansen’s plan some coincidental profile.
Before the council meeting, former mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference to support Hansen’s desire for reconsideration of a street vacation, which was rejected 14 months ago on a 5-4 council vote. Hansen subsequently dropped his bid for public financing and has since resubmitted a fully private proposal to the city.
One of 21 declared candidates, McGinn is seeking his old job back that he lost to Murray. McGinn helped create in 2012 a memorandum of understanding with Hansen for the Sodo project and Monday expressed reservations about Murray’s haste to pursue a Key solution.
“The Mayor is proposing to ‘cut a deal’ with OVG and a majority of council members before the opportunity for significant public review,” McGinn posted on his campaign blog.
He cited six concerns with OVG proposal regarding cost overruns, debt financing, additional costs, uncertain revenues, dependency on tax credits and lost parking-garage revenues.
It should be noted that the 2012 MOU with Hansen had no comprehensive transportation analysis, which emerged later as part of the mandatory state environmental impact statement in 2015. After making requests of Hansen for improvements that were fulfilled, the Seattle Department of Transportation approved his plan.
On another front, the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance released a study Monday that compared the two projects regarding their generation of tax revenues. It concluded that the Sodo project would generate three times the amount of OVG’s to the city’s general fund over the life of the proposed 35-year lease.
The study was funded by Hansen’s group and started work May 19.
Using the same set of assumptions for both proposals, the study said Sodo would generate $103 million and OVG $34 million.
But because the Key is city property, it does not pay property taxes, and Hansen’s private ownership of 12.5 acres of Sodo commercial property is already paying property taxes.
Friday, the council released the names of those who will negotiate on behalf of the city with OVG, as well as four outside consultants with expertise in arenas.
Named as financial consultant was David Abrams of Inner Circle Sports, a New York City firm that specializes in global finance advice in sports venues. A longtime investment banker, he has worked on stadium projects in several NFL cities.
Abrams’ task is to offer objective financial analysis independent of city politics.