Feb 02

An Update on the Arena Approval Process

As we wait for the City Council vote on the street vacation we wanted to remind everyone of the long and involved process we've been through the past three years. We are proud of the work we have accomplished with the public, transportation and economic experts, civic and elected leaders as we move forward with our shared goal of returning the Sonics to Seattle and welcoming the NHL back to our city.

In May 2015, we shared an update on the Environmental Impact Statement work to celebrate the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS, after careful analysis, supported by the initial positive input from an Expert Review Panel, confirmed that there will be no significant adverse impacts standing in the way of completing the permitting process for a new arena. We shared a summary of the FEIS findings as well.

We believe that this project is stronger because of the public involvement and expert analysis of our initial proposal. Just how far have we come? Let’s take a quick look at our shared work as we prepare for the City Council’s review of the necessary street vacation to construct the new arena in the Stadium District:

December 2011

After months of negotiations, the Mayor of Seattle and King County Executive reach agreement with Chris Hansen on a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of the SoDo Arena.

March 2012

An Arena Review Panel appointed by Mayor of Seattle and King County Executive convenes to examine the arena proposal.

April 2012

After numerous public meetings, the Arena Review Panel issues its favorable report.

"Based on their review, the Panel believes that the proposal is favorable, has promise and is generally consistent with the principles set forth by the Mayor and County Executive..."

May 2012

King County Council Expert Review Panel undertakes comprehensive review of the arena proposal.

May 2012

A Seattle Department of Transportation-commissioned multimodal transportation access and parking study is published.

"Arena event traffic is well within the existing parking, traffic and transit capacity of the area."

July 2012

 County Council Expert Review Panel issues favorable report.

"The proposed public-private partnership is one of the most favorable to the public of any recent partnership. The public investment carries little or no risk to the county’s financial well-being, its bond rating or its general fund...."

May – July 2012

King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and Seattle City Council Government Performance and Finance Committee consider the proposal in multiple public meetings.

July 2012

Joint City and County Council public hearing on proposal.

July 2012

Full County Council consideration of Arena MOU, approved with conditions.

September 2012

City Council makes additional changes and approves the MOU.

October 2012

City and County Councils both approve amended MOU. The King County Council approves the MOU 9-0 while the Seattle City Council approves 7-2.

October 18, 2012

MOU signed by Chris Hansen, Mayor of Seattle, and King County Executive.

November 2012 – September 2015

After 7 meetings over 3 years the Downtown Design Review Board grants unanimous approval of final design of the arena project.

December 2012 – September 2015

After 10 meetings over 3 years the Seattle Design Commission unanimously recommends approval of the vacation of Occidental Avenue for the arena project.

July 2013

Economic Impact Analysis published.

The new analysis of the SoDo Arena shows the facility would have "a total net positive economic benefit" of between $230 million and $286 million a year to the economy of King County, with most of the money flowing through the City of Seattle’s economy. 

— Puget Sound Business Journal

August 2013

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued.

September 10, 2013

Draft EIS public hearing.

September 19, 2013

Draft EIS public hearing.

May 7, 2015

Final EIS issued.

While a number of potential transportation impacts, and associated mitigation measures to address those impacts were identified, no significant adverse impacts in any other area were identified.

October 29, 2015

Addendum to FEIS issued.

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development re-analyzed pedestrian traffic numbers used in the EIS following concern expressed by the Seattle Mariners. Upping the Safeco Field game attendance from 13,000 to 40,000, the addendum certified that "the changes do not create additional significant impacts."

November 30, 2015

SDOT report and positive recommendation for street vacation submitted to the City Council.

“The FEIS shows that this portion of Occidental does not serve as a critical function to the street grid.”

“The FEIS shows that this portion of Occidental does not serve a critical function to maintain freight mobility.”

“The segment proposed to be vacated is not included in the Port's important Heavy Haul Network. This is a clear sign that Occidental is not necessary to freight movement or Port Operations."

“The SDOT does not find adverse land use impacts associated with the proposed vacation.”

We are humbled by the amount of support we’ve received for returning the NBA and NHL to Seattle, but we also know that we must be patient and transparent as the arena process moves forward. There’s still work to be done, but as you can see, we’ve come a really long way.

— The Sonics Arena Team

May 26

Seattle Arena MOU Recap

Now that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Seattle Arena has been released and we know there are no significant adverse impacts standing in the way of completing the permitting process, we thought it a good time to step back and review the important aspects of the Arena Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Seattle and King County Councils in 2012.


The Arena will be developed and primarily financed with private funds. The public participation is designed to be self-financing and requires no new taxes or fees. The public financial participation will be repaid solely with Arena generated revenues that would not otherwise exist. The MOU includes multiple layers of protection built into the financing that protect the general funds and bond ratings of the city and county from being affected. A few of the key protections included in the MOU are as follow:

  • No public financial participation is triggered until an NBA franchise is acquired and located in Seattle via a binding non-relocation agreement.
  • Multiple reserve funds are established that protect the City from ever coming out of pocket to fund any Arena tax revenue shortfalls. The public participation is further backstopped by the value of the franchises themselves via guarantees in the MOU.
  • 100% of any construction cost overrun is borne by the Arena’s private investors.
  • If only an NBA team is acquired, public participation is capped at $125 million until an NHL team is acquired.
  • City will own the Arena and land underneath outright, even after 100% of the public participation has been repaid.
  • The MOU establishes a separate fund from ArenaCo contributions and Arena revenues to finance ongoing maintenance and repair and future capital upgrades to the facility.
  • The Arena shall be designed and constructed in collaboration with the City and County and their consultants and staff.
  • ArenaCo will maintain Labor Peace Agreements with labor organizations which represent workers in King County.
  • The MOU creates a $40 million fund to improve transportation infrastructure in the SoDo area.


Arena construction would support approximately 3,570 jobs and $289 million in wage earnings — ArenaCo commits to using the City of Seattle’s Inclusion Plan as guidance for the use of WMBE’s on the project.

NBA and NHL franchises will create demand of upwards of 5,000 hotel room nights per season, providing a boost to tourism during the winter months.

Gross regional economic activity from Arena operations would generate approximately $313 million in economic activity annually.


ArenaCo will enter into a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with appropriate community organizations that will be affected by the Arena, including Pioneer Square and the Chinatown/International District, to address potential economic, transportation, parking, or public safety concerns related to the Arena and its operation.

The NBA team housed in the Arena will be required to make tickets to games affordable to middle and low-income families by offering 1,500 tickets per game at reduced prices ($20 or less).

ArenaCo will require teams to establish partnerships with organizations throughout King County that serve youth and underserved communities, particularly those areas identified as having health and education disparities by Public Health Seattle-King County.

The NBA franchise will establish partnerships with the goal of contributing to the success and health of youth with initiatives such as scholarship funds, after-school programs, youth mentorship and improved basketball facilities in the region to increase opportunities to play and learn the game of basketball.

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