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Sports City

2008 was a big year for me.

It was my first year as starting QB at NC State. My first trip to a bowl game. And the honor of being named first-team All-ACC.That year was also a big one for Seattle sports fans, but not for a good reason. It was the first year without NBA basketball in our city.

Growing up in Virginia, the Sonics were one of my favorite teams to follow. Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Sam “Big Smooth” Perkins — on the basketball courts near my home, these were the players I often pretended to be.

The younger me could only dream of one day being a professional in any sport, let alone win a Super Bowl. Now I get a chance at fulfilling another dream. Being part of an NBA ownership group.

I have joined and partnered with the Sonics Arena Investment Group because I believe in the plan Chris Hansen, Wally Walker, and Erik and Pete Nordstrom have put together. And I believe building a privately funded, state-of-the-art arena alongside Seattle’s other great stadiums is the best shot for bringing the NBA and NHL back to the city I now call home.

Recently, our group sent a letter to the Seattle City Council outlining a new proposal to privately fund the arena. In the letter, we provide details about our commitment to improving freight mobility in the area, and emphasize that the street vacation wouldn’t go into effect until an NBA or NHL team is secured. We also make clear that by approving the conditional street vacation the Seattle City Council will not interfere with the RFP process proposed for Key Arena, but rather put Seattle in the best possible position to take advantage of franchise opportunities that could become available.

One thing not emphasized in the letter, however, is something I know the City Council shares my passion for: How the return of the NBA can benefit Seattle youth, particularly those in traditionally underserved communities.

Obviously, I’m a big believer in the power of sports to improve lives. Not only do they teach kids critical lessons like the importance of teamwork and commitment, they also provide much-needed structure and activity outside of school.

Sports — and sports idols — can also inspire kids. Like a lot of you, this is something I experienced first-hand when I was young. And it’s something I experience first-hand today, as my fellow Seahawks and I visit young people throughout Seattle communities.

For years, the Sonics were an inspiration for the kids of Seattle. Local heroes our youth could look up to. Even thousands of miles away, I looked up to Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Ray Allen — I can only imagine what it was like being able to watch them in your hometown.

Bringing the NBA — and the NHL — back to Seattle will provide our youth with a new set of local heroes to look up to. Kids who love football have a pro team to follow. Same with baseball fans and soccer fans. Now it’s time to inspire the kids who love basketball and hockey.

Approving the conditional street vacation makes the Arena shovel-ready, and sends a loud message to the NBA and NHL that Seattle is ready and eager for teams. That we want our Sonics back to accompany the Storm, and a hockey team to pick up where the Seattle Metropolitans left off nearly a century ago. All we need is for the Seattle City Council to make this one last nod of approval.

I’m excited to be a part of the Arena Group, and I look forward to watching the Sonics and the NHL play in my adopted hometown.

One lasting memory that I know correlates with every Seattle fan is when we won the Super Bowl and were able to bring home the Lombardi trophy, the millions of faces and hearts and souls that were, are and will be forever connected to our team is what can help to continue to bring a community together.

This is what our society and our generations to come all need because it brings all different races, socioeconomic statuses and demographics together under one roof. We do not want to just win on the court and the ice, but also in our beloved community.

— Russell Wilson

Moving Forward

​​Following the Seattle City Council’s vote last May to deny the vacation of a portion of Occidental Avenue South we reiterated our commitment to bringing the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We said we would take time to step back, evaluate our options, better understand the Council’s concerns and find a path forward.

For the past five months, we’ve been doing just that. We have carefully considered the various concerns expressed by Council members and identified steps we could take to address those concerns. In a letter to the Mayor and King County Executive — both of whom share our goal of bringing the Sonics and NHL back to Seattle — we described the steps we are willing to take to move the Arena project forward.

First, we will direct contributions to a package of additional SODO traffic improvements, which will improve freight mobility through the area.

Second, we agreed to commit future payment of compensation for the vacated street to the city’s financing package for the Lander Street Overpass, thereby helping to close the funding gap for that important project.

Finally, we have agreed to revising the street vacation petition to eliminate public financing of the Arena. Terminating the MOU would allow the city and county to recoup the $200 million in debt capacity and free-up Arena tax-generated revenue streams.

To make this all possible we have asked for approval of a revised conditional street vacation, a waiver of the city’s admissions tax, which has been granted for the other sports venues in Seattle, and an adjustment of the city’s B&O tax for revenue generated out of town.

We are hopeful these additional steps will address the concerns of the Council so the Arena project can move forward – which remains the critical first step to bringing the NBA and NHL back to Seattle.

Go Sonics!

— Chris Hansen, Erik Nordstrom, Pete Nordstrom, Wally Walker

Statement from Chris Hansen on behalf of the Arena Investment Group

​​Today’s City Council vote was disappointing but we don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We know all the fans who have stood solidly by us these past years share our disappointment but it is important that we all stay focused on our shared goal.

We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council’s concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted.

Investment Team Letter to City Council Urging for Street Vacation

​Yesterday Sonics Arena Investment Team members Erik Nordstrom, Wally Walker and Pete Nordstrom sent a letter to the Seattle City Council, urging the Council to approve the Occidental Avenue street vacation on May 2nd. Here is the letter:

A Great Night For Sonics Fans!

We wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who came down to City Hall yesterday to show their support for making Sonics Arena shovel-ready. Our team was once again humbled by the dedication Sonics fans, hockey fans and civic leaders have displayed throughout this long review process.

We’d like to especially thank the 13,711 people who signed our petition and Cooper for delivering them. A big thank you as well to KJR, Softy, Lenny Wilkens, Brandon Roy, James Donaldson, Donald Watts, Jaci McCormack from Rise Above, Kevin Calabro, Mayor Ed Murray, Mike McGinn, the Seattle Sports Commission and Unite Here Local 8, among many others for your support last night. And we’d like to thank the City Council, for providing a public forum for people to weigh in on this work.

Last night was a critical opportunity for fans to voice their approval. Now it’s time to keep the pressure on before the City Council votes late April or early May.

Over the next several weeks the Council will hold more meetings to review specific aspects of this proposal before the final vote. So please email the entire City Council at [email protected] to remind them how much community support there is to approve the street vacation. Here are some talking points you can consider using:

  1. After a lengthy environmental review process the Seattle Department of Transportation recommended the street vacation.
  2. The Seattle Mariners received street vacations for Safeco Field and the Mariners Parking garage.
  3. The street vacation is the final step of the EIS process and will give the investment team the green light to build an arena which puts Seattle in the best place it can be to take advantage of opportunities that will come up.
  4. Approving the street vacation will show the NBA and NHL we are ready to welcome professional teams to our city.
  5. The Mayor and the Seattle City Council deserve our thanks for all the hard work they’ve done over the past three years to bring us to this exciting moment.

There’s still much more work to do, but with your support, we are now closer than ever to welcoming the NHL to Seattle and BRINGING BACK OUR SONICS!

Thank you!

— The Sonics Arena Team

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

Sonics Arena Final Environmental Impact Statement

The long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Seattle Arena has been released and it is a greenlight for us to continue moving forward to finish the remaining work needed for the final construction permits. A summary of that document is provided below for your information.

We want to thank the city staff and technical consultants who worked hard to get this document completed and published. It is a major milestone in our journey to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle.

We also wanted to take the opportunity to reiterate that we remain 100% supportive of the NHL returning to Seattle and playing in the Arena — and are completely open to the prospect of that occurring prior to the NBA. In light of recent speculation, we would just like to clarify that we have sought to be as accommodating as possible in our negotiations with potential NHL partners, with our only major requirements being that such a deal does not jeopardize the process or put the City, County, Taxpayers or us in a worse financial position.

Lastly, we also want to extend our sincere thanks to all of you who have stood by us these past several years. Your support has meant so much to us and made a huge impact on the success of this important project. The EIS is clearly a significant milestone, but there is much more work to be done and we greatly appreciate the continued support from all Seattle sports fans.

— Chris Hansen, Pete Nordstrom, Erik Nordstrom, and Wally Walker


FEIS SUMMARY

The final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Seattle Arena was published today. This 600 + page document, 2 years in the making, is the product of an exhaustive examination of a number of important issues such as construction impacts, transportation and freight impacts and parking and economic impacts.

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.

Transportation

No significant unavoidable adverse impacts to the street system, public transportation, bicyclists, and bicycle corridors are expected. The order of magnitude of change in traffic volumes associated with an arena for any event falls within the range of current event experience. There would be an increase in traffic volumes during peak conditions on event days, which would occur more frequently with the addition of an arena. A number of measures have been identified to reduce the level of traffic volumes, including demand reduction, and management of vehicles to orient them to the most appropriate route.

  • The EIS studied various scenarios with multiple events at the different stadium venues, up to a maximum attendance of 72,500, such as a typical Seahawks game. With the addition of the Seattle Arena the number of these large event days would increase.
  • Traffic impacts and travel time effects from an arena only event would generally be the same or slightly less than a Mariners only event.
  • Adding Arena events to days with Mariners and Century Link events (other than Seahawks) will somewhat increase traffic impacts in the area, but not beyond the maximum 72,500 cumulative attendance already seen at Seahawk games.
  • The seasonal overlap between NBA/NHL games and baseball and soccer is limited to a relatively small period in the spring and fall. Throughout the winter NBA/NHL season Arena events would not compete against major events in the existing two stadiums. The smaller number of Seahawk games facilitates joint scheduling during the winter.
  • Various potential mitigation measures were identified to address the transportation impacts, including local intersection improvements, sidewalk improvements for pedestrian traffic, a new pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks on Holgate and contributions to other mitigation measures identified by the City.
Freight Traffic
  • The full annual delay costs to Port related traffic from additional Arena traffic is estimated to be $115,584. For non-Port truck trips the estimated delay costs are estimated to be $66,141.
Economic Impact
  • The construction related economic activity from direct and re-spending is estimated at $533 million.
  • Arena construction would support approximately 3,570 jobs and $289 million in wage earnings.
  • Gross regional economic activity from Arena operations would generate approximately $313 million in economic activity annually.

SEA!!! HAWKS!!!

​I was at the game in NYC with my wife, kids and close friends and needless to say it was a lifetime experience for me just as it was for so many of you. As a diehard Seattle sports fan living in California for the better part of the last 25 years, I have had to sit quietly as friends have celebrated the numerous titles from the Lakers, Dodgers, Niners, and Giants. I have been in SF and witnessed the unbridled joy of three championship parades. And I have stood aside with envy as bars of loyal fans raised their right index fingers in the air and sang “We are the Champions.”

After watching a game that can only be described as a blur of joyous domination, when I saw Paul Allen and Pete Carroll hoist the Lombardi Trophy in MetLife amidst a snowstorm of blue and green confetti, I hugged my kids and just started to tear up. Like all Seattle sports fans, I have waited so long for this moment, and the gravity of it was just overwhelming. I honestly kept thinking to myself, “Is this really happening?”

After celebrating with my kids on the bus ride back to Manhattan, I headed out to a 12th man pub in NYC called Carlow East to celebrate with friends. We sang and danced and hugged and cried. And for the first time in 35 years, I held my right index finger high in the air and belted out “We are the Champions” in a packed bar full of Seattleites and just thought to myself… “We did it. We finally did it.”

So I would just like to commend Paul Allen, Pete Carroll, the Seahawks organization, and most of all the players for delivering the title that our city has so desperately craved and deserved for the last 35 years. Few have the opportunity in life to do something that means so much to so many. And I know I speak for all Sonics fans when I simply say thank you.

And for anyone who has any lingering doubts as to whether Seattle is a “sports city” capable of supporting an NBA and NHL franchise, there are about 700,000 of us that have a few pictures from yesterday we would be happy to share with you.

— Chris Hansen

To All the Green & Gold Faithful

I just wanted to share with you a bit more insight into what we have planned for our innovative Sonic Rings. As we highlighted in our blog post that accompanied the initial renderings, the thought process behind the Rings was really twofold:

1. To create flexible capacity that would help insure the feeling of intimacy in the building and

2. To create a superior experience and viewing angles for our lower priced tickets

As can be seen in these first four pictures, the design of these levels will allow us to open or close each Sonic Ring separately and thus modularly add capacity for events as needed, while effectively hiding the empty space and making the building feel super intimate given the steepness of the building and vertical stacking of the rings. Again, each Ring will have approximately 800-900 fixed seats, with drink rails and standing room behind them to accommodate another 700-1500 patrons per level.




This second set of pictures show what we picture the atmosphere to be like up here. As many sporting fans would attest, it’s a little tougher to drag ourselves out to a game in this era of HDTV and the fun and casual experience offered by bars, restaurants, and even our own homes. With this in mind, we have tried to create a unique game-watching experience that combines a fun, social environment with stellar viewing angles not offered in any other arena upper deck.



 

In addition to what is shown in the pictures here, we also plan on having several different themes on each ring, ranging from sports bar style environments and areas dedicated to “super fans” craving few distractions, to family-themed areas catering to young Sonics fans that still have a hard time sitting in their seats for two hours.

But most of all we just really hope our fans appreciate the thoughtfulness that we put into trying to create what we think will unquestionably be not only the most unique building in the NBA… but also one specifically tailored to our unique culture and fans.

And I would just like to take the opportunity to encourage all of you who have not done so already to take the time to sign up for our Priority Ticket Waitlist.  We will be closing the Waitlist on April 1 at 1pm, and announcing the results shortly thereafter. While we really appreciate all of the support and are thrilled with the success thus far, we just want to make sure all of our true fans have taken the opportunity to sign up and get their name on the list before we close it.

I really can’t say thank you enough for all the support. As we head toward what is hopefully the finish line, I would just like to say what an amazing experience this has been.  It’s your passion that has inspired me to press ahead as hard as I have, and it’s something I will be forever grateful for.

— Chris Hansen

Hockey Anyone?


We also just wanted to take this opportunity to share a couple pictures for all the diehard hockey fans out there of what this building will look like for an NHL game. The bottom line is as good as this is for basketball, it is an even better building for hockey.

As can be seen in the pictures above, as with most NBA/NHL buildings we have designed the seats behind the backboard/goal to retract backwards and the first few rows of courtside seating can be removed to accommodate hockey’s larger playing surface and dasher board. The net result puts hockey fans even closer to the action, including our pocket suites. Given the size of the playing surface and speed of the game, we also think the Sonic Rings will prove to be one of the most unique and valued viewing experiences in the game.

While I know there may have been a few skeptics out there, I have to say I am just as pumped as most of you to see the return of professional hockey to Seattle, and honestly can’t wait to see this building bursting at the seams with crazed Seattle hockey fans.

— Chris Hansen

SEATTLE… LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!






We’re happy today to release some preliminary designs for the seating bowl in the new Seattle arena. Fans will see that the design features some non-traditional elements that are inspired by the unique sports culture of the Seattle market. Most notably, the upper seating bowl is dramatically shortened and the top rows are replaced with three stacked balconies (what we have dubbed the “Sonic Rings”) that slant inward toward center court as they stack. We believe these balcony levels provide several key advantages versus traditional upper bowl seating including:

  • Improved Viewing Angles: The creation of the Sonic Rings and resulting ability to significantly increase steepness of the lower bowl, results in MARKEDLY improved sight lines for all seating categories
  • Reduced stratification between seating levels: Creating a more vibrant, festive, and social experience in the upper levels and giving typically premium seating amenities to all of our fans
  • Significant Flex Capacity: In addition to seating for over 2,000 patrons, the design of the Sonic Rings allows for significant incremental standing room capacity so we can “flex up” for the big game or “flex down” for more intimate events
  • Increased Intimacy, Energy… and Noise: We believe that pushing the entirety of the seating bowl closer to the court and having 2,000-4,000 fans literally overhanging the game not only creates the most intimate venue in the NBA, but will also provide you with the opportunity to create the loudest, most energetic atmosphere in yet another pro sport—or better yet two!
  • More Cost Effective and Sustainable Building: This introduction of the Sonic Rings and resulting compression of the seating bowl significantly reduces the roof spans — which makes for a more cost-effective and sustainable building

There are unconventional elements in the premium seating areas as well. The lower levels suites are located less than ten rows off the floor—and even closer to the ice. They’re designed as “pocket” suites that give direct suite access to the suite holders without creating an unsightly gap in the camera view of the lower seating level. We believe the upper suite level also represents both an evolution in Arena design and a recognition of the unique attributes of the Seattle Business Community. Instead of creating a level of “hermetically sealed” suites with a dedicated corridor that speaks to status superiority and isolation, we have instead opted for a flexible “Loge Suite” design that will allow us to offer varying suite layouts to groups and businesses of all sizes. The suite layouts provide a much more social, inclusive and fun atmosphere around shared bars and amenities with a balcony that overlooks the main club.

Again, the major point here is that our seating bowl design will maximize the intensity of the game experience and minimize the stratification of the different tiers of tickets. Both of these design goals we believe will strongly appeal to the Seattle sports community.
We designed the unconventional seating bowl to be ideally suited for music as well. The uniqueness of the seating bowl and flex capacity of the Sonic Rings create a much more intimate venue for concerts of varying sizes. The Sonic Rings will also have sound treatment directly behind their seats, adding to the natural sound absorption of the rings themselves.
In the coming months, we will begin announcing some of our sustainable building features. There will be renewable energy features as well as an aggressive water recapture and cisterning solution that will reuse rainwater inside the building and in the water features in the north plaza.
And in case you missed it, the exterior is a “SuperSonic” jet turbine . . . not a flan!

See how Sonics Arena compares to some other arenas below.

— Chris Hansen