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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

Seattle Music Community Speaks Out on Behalf of Sonics Arena

Here’s a letter to the Mayor and City Council from Pearl Jam, the Presidents of the USA, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, KEXP DJs and other members of Seattle’s music scene. In it, they express what Sonics Arena and the return of the Sonics will mean to the music community, Sodo, and Seattle Center.

Download PDF

“We believe one of the great benefits of the Hansen project is that it devotes resources to invigorating Key Arena at Seattle Center, which will be the temporary home of a new basketball team while the new venue is completed. Soon, Seattle Center will also be the new home of KEXP. As members of the KEXP Community, we wholeheartedly support efforts to bring additional energy to the Center campus. New vitality at Seattle Center benefits all the nonprofit campus tenants.”

The New Sonics Anthem

E-Dawg presents “We Ready” featuring Spaceman, The Natural Truth, Kalieb Nash and Thig Nat of The Physics. Produced by E-Dawg and Kevin Gardner.

What the Sonics Meant to Me

by Martell Webster
Shooting guard with the Washington Wizards

In my life I’ve been fortunate for so many reasons, not the least of which are the facts that 1) I get to play basketball and 2) I grew up in the Seattle area. I was also raised here when the Sonics were still in town, and can remember that ‘95/’96 season when Shawn, Gary, Detlef and others took us to the Finals against the Bulls. So close. At that time, at ten years old, I still wanted to fly airplanes.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself being drafted straight out of high school and playing in the NBA. In between it took a lot of practice, more tournaments and skills classes than anyone can count, and a lot of time and energy. I’ve said it before — basketball was an escape for me; it got me away from some difficult times and allowed me a path I might not otherwise have had.

In reality, though, it wasn’t just basketball. It was all of the people who stepped in to be my family when I needed them the most. It was my grandmother who raised my brothers, sisters, cousins and I, the uncles who stepped in, and the three families in high school who took me into their homes — into their families — and taught me so much about myself and life. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to play professional basketball, but most of all I feel blessed to have all of these people in my life.

Having a professional basketball team in town was also a personal motivator. Having the Sonics in Seattle when I was young and seeing them play a few feet away from me, whether it was a game or one of their basketball camps, was a constant motivator and made the idea of playing in the NBA a tangible reality. I knew the stories of the retired guys who stuck around the region — guys like Fred Brown and James Donaldson — and was fortunate enough to even attend family night once or twice with different members of the team.

This is why I focus my charitable work around youth mentorship and family. I want every child to have big dreams, learn to work hard, have a strong support system, and have a community and mentors that will help guide and motivate them — just like I did. It is why I have hosted Family Day in local parks for the past two years with free basketball clinics, food, music and other fun activities. We’ve kept our basketball camps free so that any kid, no matter their circumstance, can participate. And we just officially started the Martell Webster Foundation, which will organize many more community events and expand the programs mentioned above.

Every guy I’ve played with over the years — from Seattle Prep to the Blazers to the Timberwolves — has a story to tell and a reason behind their passion for basketball, and I’m sure I’ll hear more stories at the Washington Wizards this year. For me, it’s about family, about a group of people who supported and nurtured me — who taught me to see basketball not just as an escape, but as a vehicle to take control of my future.

I now have three beautiful daughters, and it sure would be amazing to take them to a Sonics game in the future and play in Seattle once again.

— Martell Webster

The Return of the Sonics Will Change Young Lives

by Tavio Hobson
Founder, A PLUS Youth Program

The Founder of A PLUS, Tavio Hobson has served as the A PLUS Executive Director since 2009. He is responsible for managing the program coordinators and staff, maintaining and refining the A PLUS program model as well as expanding the program in order to fit the A PLUS mission. Tavio has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish. Born and raised in the inner city of Seattle, Tavio has never been a stranger to service. His mother has been in childcare for over 25 years, while his father received the prestigious Jefferson Community Service Award, recognizing his dedication to the youth of Seattle. Tavio has worked for several non-profit organizations including YES (Youth, Education, Sports) Foundation for seven years. In addition to directing A PLUS Youth Program he currently works for YouthCare, an organization that aims to end youth homelessness in Seattle, Washington. As the founder of A PLUS, Tavio aims to help provide the academic assistance, personal leadership development and athletic engagement to the youth of the greater Seattle area.


Growing up in Seattle, I was fortunate enough to get the experience to play basketball at a competitive level. Like many other kids growing up in the inner city, I dreamed of playing basketball at the highest level. Although this dream never became a reality, the life lessons I gained through my participation in sports has been the foundation for my work ethic, perseverance, ongoing community involvement and cultural competency. In addition to these experiences, basketball served as a powerful motivator in school, keeping me focused on my studies. A PLUS Youth program was founded on the idea that sports can be used as a vehicle to provide youth with the educational and character development they need to be successful in life.

Seattle has a unique basketball culture, one that fosters civic engagement — from the professional athletes who have connections to the area, to the professional franchises that represent our city. What our city might not see economically from a franchise, our youth can feel personally from their community engagement. Below are a few examples of the impact I have personally seen at A PLUS at a smaller scale due to athlete involvement that I believe would be possible on a much larger scale if Seattle had an NBA team:

 

  • The power and impact of sports teams as fan-based organizations have the unique ability to build a strong, engaged community.
  • Teams and individual athletes can build programs that specifically address social issues such as youth development and access to education resources, affordable sports participation by underprivileged and underrepresented youth, and healthy lifestyle and fitness education.
  • A team and its players access to media gives them the power to draw better awareness to social issues that impact the community, and can help bring that message to a much larger audience through both traditional and social media.
  • With access to media as well as community influencers, teams are able to assist in fundraising for community programs.

In short, the return of professional basketball to our community would mean more resources going to youth, more strategic youth development partnerships, and a better ability for Seattle to continue to be at the forefront of community-corporate partnerships.

The thought of having an NBA team back in Seattle reminds me of an experience I recently had with one of our youth. A youngster aged 11, still bright-eyed and determined to tackle all challenges life presented, said, “Martell (Webster) told me that even if I don’t get a scholarship to play basketball I can go to college for free if I keep my grades high.” These are the powerful messages we promote each day in our program. I cannot emphasize enough the lives an NBA team could help change.

At A PLUS, we see youth potential realized every day.

— Tavio Hobson