It’s probably a sign of regional progress that access to transit always receives prominent mention in any discussion of a potential arena site. I suspect that wouldn’t have happened in 1965 or 1980 or even 1995, although in each of those cases we didn’t have much in the way of traffic-separated transit that freed attendees from horrendous pre- and post-game congestion.

Sodo arena
Sodo arena

According to the wonderful NHL to Seattle blog, there are three arena sites still under consideration: the well-known Chris Hansen Sodo site, Downtown Bellevue east of I-405, and a new location near the Tukwila Sounder station. Superficial glances at route maps are nice step, but how do the transit features of each site stack up to an expert eye?

Sodo (1st Ave S & S Holgate St)

Assets: Central regional location. Within reasonable walking distance of the great Sodo/Pioneer Square transit hub, providing access to ferries, Link,  Sounder, and the busway. Regular service runs frequently deep into the night and on weekends.

Liabilities: Most of those assets are a long walk away, with frustratingly indirect pathways, and are unpleasant for pedestrians.

Scope for Improvement: Major work to improve pedestrian access. Most effective (and expensive) would be to break up some of the superblocks and provide new exits to Sodo and Stadium stations, providing more direct access to the arena that lies between them.

Overall Grade: B+. People would take transit to events here no matter where they live, although fewer than would if the arena were an easier walk.

Bellevue (NE 4th St & 116th Ave NE)

Assets: Within reasonable walking distance of the Bellevue Transit Center, with decent bus service in all directions late into the night and on weekends. Beginning in 2023, a nearby Link Light Rail station.

Liabilities: Until 2023, transit is mostly not traffic-separated, trapping it in post-game congestion. Access to BTC is an unpleasant walk that requires crossing a freeway. Also bus frequency drops precipitously evenings and weekends, even on core routes.

Scope for Improvement: Other than waiting for 2023, investing more in high-frequency buses evenings and weekends, and special event service. Anything Bellevue can do to grant transit priority nearby would also help, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Overall Grade: D today, B- in 2023. Only diehards will take transit there this decade assuming no improvements; but East Link will be the default way to get there for people in Seattle, Mercer Island, the Spring District, and Redmond that aren’t surgically attached to their cars. The Link spine, though a long trip, may even attract people to the North and South of Seattle that are too cheap to pay for parking.

Tukwila (Longacres Way & W Valley Hwy)

Assets: RapidRide F and Tukwila Sounder Station provide easy access to arena; Route 150 is nearby and provides a fairly direct shot into Downtown Seattle.

Liabilities: The Sounder doesn’t run when you need it to, except early weekday evenings. F line, and possibly the 150, will be severely delayed by game traffic. F line is a meandering, indirect way to get places. Again, bus frequency drops off unacceptably evenings and weekends.

Scope for Improvement: Special Sounder service to both Seattle and Tacoma, special event bus service using more direct routing. Building the Burien/Renton BRT corridor from Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan would turn the F into a great option.

Overall Grade: D. Night special Sounder service is unprecedented, even for much larger venues. Aggressive bus priority would do wonders but the likely outcome is that almost anyone with the option will drive. It’s possible to get here via transit at night, which keeps it from being an F.

Discussion of the merits of public subsidy of arenas are off-topic for this post.

113 Replies to “How the NBA/NHL Arena Sites Stack Up”

  1. Great report. I completely agree. If it is built, I hope it is built downtown.

    I wonder if a station could be added at Holgate. On game days, you could skip SoDo and use that one instead. That might not be practical (or worth the money) so what are the other improvements that could be made?

    1. The biggest ped improvement you could make would be an exit on the south end of stadium that connected to new ped infrastructure on the flyover that WSDOT built, of course, with no such infrastructure.

      Then you would add a new street crossing on Edgar Martinez, possibly with a pathway to the east of the Safeco garage. That would get riders a nearly straight line to the arena, and improve Safeco access as well.

      There is no chance most of this will happen.

      1. I think one of the little tragedies with the stadium issue is that Paul Allen already owns the Trailblazers. By NBA rules you can’t own two teams. But if Allen owned the Sonics, they would still be here. If they moved from the Seattle Center, then they could move to this spot. Allen could buy up the land, build the stadium and get the city to build some of that infrastructure (all part of the deal). Next thing you know, much of that area would look a lot like South Lake Union. There are limitations, of course (much of that is industrial) but not impossible. As long as the existing use remains industrial, you can build over it with offices (e. g. you can replace some of the parking lots in the area with office buildings). I don’t think anyone has the deep pockets to invest in the land and buy new team(s) the way that Allen can. So you are right, I doubt that those improvements will be made.

      2. I think many people would say “look a lot like SLU” is a bug, not a feature, due to aesthetic issues or resentment of its “corporate” nature. Also there are people not interested in trading industrial jobs in the city for more space for white collar workers.

        I’m not particularly animated by any of these objections but they’d be there.

        There are many tragedies here, and Paul Allen is way down the list. The main one is Howard Schultz being gullible or dishonest enough to claim not to see that Clay Bennett was going to leave town without a massive bribe from the State, when that was obvious to nearly all observers. The second is that Steve Ballmer wasn’t ready to invest in an NBA team a few years ago.

      3. I agree Martin with your last paragraph as well as most of your other points. Just to be clear, unlike South Lake Union, they would have to preserve the industrial nature of the area while adding offices and housing. This is well within the current zoning — as long as you keep the industrial jobs, it is OK. So, for example, you could build over the parking lots, or build on top of a plant. In many cases this means more industrial jobs (several stories of factory/garment workers instead of one or two). But to make any of that appealing, you need a little momentum (as South Lake Union had). The area has a lot more railroad tracks and freeway ramps than South Lake Union, and those can’t be overcome. It is also further away from the UW. Other than that, it is fairly similar to South Lake Union before it transformed (lots of grungy looking warehouse buildings). So it would be a tougher transition to pull off (less natural advantages, and you have to preserve the industrial jobs) but not impossible. The stadiums might be just the “anchor” to do it. Not that I’m holding my breath, but it could happen (or least happen to a lesser degree).

    2. I agree that SODO is most ideal in terms of access to transit, but that the existing Link and Sounder stations are a long walk away.

      But why hasn’t anyone considered adding a special event Sounder station right next to the new stadium and north of Holgate?

      The track is already there (it’s part of the Sounder yard) and the cost to add a platform, lighting and signage would be fairly minimal.

  2. SODO – can S Massachusetts St be built over that huge train yard? Otherwise that super-block is kind of impossible to break up to improve access from Stadium Station.

    Maybe as a pedestrian bridge – it doesn’t seem like a road bridge would work very well and I’m sure it would be stupid expensive.

    1. An example would be to punch a walkway through north of the USPS facility to create a north exit for sodo, rather than forcing people to walk out of the way down to Lander.

      1. As I recall, there is a north exit from the northbound Sodo platform onto the adjacent bike trail. A crosswalk across the tracks at the north end of the platform would be a lot cheaper than creating a new walkway across non-ST property. Sound Transit would need to get over their aversion to letting passengers walk across the tracks, but it’s doable—maybe they could install crossing gates or something.

      2. Eric,

        People cross the tracks along MLK all the time. One direction of every trip forces the rider to cross the tracks. What’s different about the busway trackage?

      3. In the past, ST hasn’t been supportive of adding track crossings on a couple occasions, most notably to connect to a potential center platform in International District station. I’m not sure of the reasons behind that, but whatever they are, they could apply to the busway tracks as well. If this wasn’t an issue, then you could easily add a crosswalk from the south end of Stadium station to the bike trail as well, at low cost.

  3. Is anyone but Chris Hansen considering the SODO site? If not, that site will not happen. Hansen has made himself persona non grata with the NBA franchise owners. (I’m not saying he did anything wrong. He just ticked off the wrong people.)

    That said, if there is use for that same property for portage purposes, building a sports facility there would be net negative economic generator.

    The Tukwila Sounder Station proposal sounds similar to the pipe-dream that was a Chambers Bay Sounder station, before it was explained to the PGA that Sounder is not a frequent all-day passenger rail line.

    The opportunity cost of building a sports facility, rather than high-rise office buildings or condominiums, in downtown Bellevue, seems also high.

    1. The NHL guy, Victor Coleman is trying to work out a deal with the city and Hansen for an NHL first MOU for the SODO site. However, he supposedly has not made a proposal to Hansen as of yet. Allegedly, Coleman has his eye on property elsewhere in Seattle proper, which he hasn’t disclosed, if he can’t work out a deal. I don’t know where else he could build in the city. Not a whole lot of property left over for an arena footprint.

      1. Just speculating, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Coleman’s Seattle Plan B is to replace Key Arena. As political obstacles are the largest tumbling blocks to the Hansen stadium plan moving ahead, he may think the Key Arena site would have an easier path to political approval.

      2. According to Geoff Baker of the Times, Bartoszek, who’s working on the Tukwila arena project, considered demolishing and reconstructing the Key Arena, but passed on it due in part to a “historical building assessment” that had to be done on the site. I also believe the neighborhood residents were resistant to having the heights of the potential new building raised because it would interfere with their views; not to mention the lack of parking. So I could imagine Coleman having considerable headaches in trying to do the Key Arena site.

  4. Also remember in 2023 the Lynnwood Extension will be complete, so when that and East Link are up and running, I think the grade gap between Bellevue and SODO will be greater than B+ and B-. After 2023, I would give SODO an A and Bellevue a B-.

    1. I agree.

      One of the best things about Link is that it is bi-directional and fast all day long. From Northgate to downtown, for example, is just fine on the 41 in the morning. But it is terrible in the evening. Likewise a lot of suburban buses only serve as commuter buses. So North Link will be a huge benefit to those heading downtown in the evening.

      But getting to Bellevue using transit will still be a chore from the north end. You will get there, but it will take a while and will be indirect for many (if you were driving you would take 405 or 520). There are similar dynamics from the south.

      Meanwhile, the reverse isn’t that bad. Getting from the east side to downtown is a straight forward shot — the train follows the path you would take. The only awkward spots are to the east and southeast (e. g. Issaquah and Newcastle). Even then someone in the area would probably just use the park and ride at South Bellevue if they don’t want to ride the feeder bus.

    2. SODO Site: The SODO site isn’t that convenient to either Link station in SODO and it’s not close to Sounder or ferry service either. Eastside rail riders will have to transfer to reach the SODO arena on trains already overflowing with fans from the north. SODO really only has transit from Link and the adjacent busway. Event buses using HOV lanes on freeways will not have an easy time getting to the arena. I would add on benefit: there are plenty of nearby places to lay over buses during an event in SODO, which is a good thing.

      Bellevue Site: The Link riders coming from the south will have to transfer to get to Bellevue but that is similar to what Eastside riders will have to do for SODO. Even then, a 405 special event service using the HOV lanes is another potential option that could give event buses a direct shot to the site — especially if Bellevue can get a NE 6th Street crossing completed out of this. Sure the distance is further from the Seattle core, but there are several restaurants within walking distance to the Bellevue arena site — and probably 5,000 more residents who live close enough to walk to a game.

      For these reasons, I think the Bellevue site would actually be slightly better for transit access than SODO after 2023 — not worse.

      1. Al S.,

        I agree that if Bellevue/ST/Metro do a lot of stuff to make North/South buses work better, then Bellevue will get a higher score. Heck, I think ST3 will have I-405 BRT and if that passes that’s worth a letter grade.

        But the final grades don’t wishcast such improvements.

      2. The SoDo site is not perfect, but it is still a lot better than anything on the east side. As I said to Sam down below, the only people who would benefit from a location in Bellevue are the people on the east side. There are way more people in Seattle and to the north and south.

        The number of buses that go very close to SoDo way exceed those that go to Bellevue. North and South Link will way exceed East Link. Yes, it is a bit further to walk to the station if you are coming from the east, but so what? You either take a frequent bus/train or you walk. Those are the only people who would come out behind, and they would still gain an advantage from transit. If I’m in Newcastle and want to get to a game, I will part at the South Bellevue Park and Ride (regardless or where they put the stadium). You really can’t say that for a downtown Bellevue location (if you are coming from Ballard then you either drive, or take a bus through downtown).

        That really is the key. The vast majority of people taking transit will travel very close to SoDo. Imagine if it wasn’t a ball game, but the exact same event at both places. Will someone from Lynnwood ride the train and transfer to Bellevue? What about someone from Tacoma? Ballard? Fremont, Shoreline, UW, Capitol Hill? No, they will get off at SoDo and walk. There are only a handful of places where the Bellevue location would make sense, and way more people would go to SoDo.

        So with a SoDo stadium, the transit trip there is better for more people and a transit trip is almost always as good as driving. With a Bellevue stadium, fewer people have a great transit trip and for many, driving (even driving through really bad traffic) is faster.

    3. The SODO site is fine. It’s not that long of a walk from the SODO station or from any of the myriad of parking lots serving Safeco Field. Short of somehow redirecting the LR to drop off INSIDE the stadium, why would you move or construct anything? To get folks a 2-4 minutes closer?

      My GF works right there and it’s an 9-10 minute walk from the train to her office, including waiting on the lights to cross. People park that far away to get to the Sounders/’Hawks/M’s games all the time.

      There certainly can be sidewalk and crossing improvements made, but it’s not a big deal either way.

  5. Why isn’t anyone considering the best site of all: Tacoma Dome.

    It’s perfectly positioned for access by transit, with it’s own Sounder/Amtrak station, as well as Tacoma LINK and soon, Seattle LINK.

    It allows Eastside and South King fans to get there while avoiding Seattle downtown traffic.

    It’s exactly the right size for both NBA and NHL.

    Plus, best of all, it would be a step in the right direction of spreading the transportation load across our entire Region.

    1. Because it is a long ways from where most of the people in the area live. From the north end it would take over an hour to get there, meaning unless you drive, you will get home close to midnight. So there goes around a quarter of your fan base right there. Most of Seattle lives north of I-90, and there is a similar dynamic. What if you do live south of downtown, say in West Seattle? Will there be express buses to West Seattle from Tacoma? Of course not. So you are looking at taking a bus or train all the way back to downtown Seattle, then a bus over to West Seattle. Again, you are looking at getting to bed at midnight unless you drive. Even some of the areas that are closer to the Tacoma Dome are not exactly handy. Bus service to Renton, for example, is not great. The long and short of it is that Tacoma Dome events will continue to have huge numbers of drivers, because folks want to have a shorter trip back home after the event.

      1. There’s also a fundamental capacity problem to relying on a bus like the 594 to get people home after the event. A bus can only carry about 50 people, and if it runs once every half hour, this means that the number of people who could possibly ride the bus home without over and hour’s wait is capped at 100. Assuming a typical attendance of 10,000 people, this means it is simply impossible for transit to get beyond a 1% modeshare without a massive, year-after-year infusion of new money to operate new trips.

      2. The long and short of it is that Tacoma Dome events will continue to have huge numbers of drivers”

        It’s entirely possible that John thinks that’s a feature, not a bug.

      3. “I assume special Sounder service from Tacoma to Seattle for all games.”

        Only if you’re willing to write the multi-billion dollar check to BNSF, because the rest of the taxpayers sure aren’t, and the team won’t pay for it either.

        If Sound Transit owned their own passenger track then, yes, special event trains for basketball would have the potential to make economic sense. Since they don’t, trains make sense only for events that draw extreme crowds, such as the Sounders and Seahawks.

    2. T-Dome is too small for NBA and NHL requirements. It only seats 17,000 for basketball without any of the modern amenities that state-of-the-art arenas offer. Hockey capacity is even lower. The big money that supports NBA/NHL teams is all in Seattle and Bellevue. The trip to Tacoma is too long to be sustainable. Also, the Sonics played one year at the T-Dome while Key Arena was being remodeled and it was a difficult year for the fans. No team is ever going to consider the T-Dome as a permanent home.


        Can’t resist re-posting this video reflecting David Stern’s positive comments on the new Key Arena back in 95. That was after the year where the Sonics played in the Tacoma Dome.

        I actually wouldn’t mind seeing an arena in another location of the region, but that Tukwila location really is a transit desert, and likely will stay that way. As long as Sounder Commuter rail relies on the freight tracks for service, that just will never be an option for events there. I would actually like to see Bellevue get the arena, as long as they work on the transit connection.

      2. Too small?

        I used to get a Sonics multi-game package.

        The Key was mostly half or even 1/3rd full on some nights!

        Although maybe if you located the arena outside of Seattle where the real fans are, you’d get more.

    3. Because putting a team at the Tacoma Dome is a great way to make sure nobody goes to the games.

      1. This is what NW basketball should look like!

        The arena was constructed in 1983, and along with its roof, it has a unique characteristic in that more than 65% of its seats are not fixed so as to host any number of events and sports – even American football.

        With a basketball capacity of over 17,000, the arena was major league when the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics called it home from 1994 to 1995.

        From 1991 to 1995, there was a permanent major junior hockey tenant in the WHL Tacoma Rockets.

        Functional, well positioned and low cost.

        Hey…maybe I shouldn’t say anything!

        The Crooks of Seattle will probably tear it down…because its…Too Good…and they can’t make any more money “fixing” it!!

      2. Yes, because the trek out to Tacoma was so much fun for Sonics fans last time they tried it. Not. Been there, done that, didn’t buy the overpriced T-shirt.

        More concretely, it had the atmosphere and amenities of a high school gym — admittedly one somewhere where they prioritize high school sports. It was step down from the Coliseum, let alone Key Arena, which the NBA has made crystal clear isn’t up to snuff.

      3. Has anybody here gone to the high school tournaments? The Tacoma Dome’s shape, sightlines and lighting make it a terrible place to watch basketball.

      4. NW basketball should look like the high school state wrestling tournament?

    4. LOL, you just parroted the same comment you had on the Seattle Times website. Did you even read any of the comments that explained to you why no modern professional athletic team could locate there?

    5. The largest number of affluent sports fans are in Seattle and the Eastside. The teams don’t care about non-affluent fans; they want to charge ever-higher ticket prices and $10 hot dogs. Tukwila is a contender mainly because it’s close to 405.

      Tacoma Dome or its neighborhood could be a contender although it’s a heckuv a long way from Seattle, Bellevue, and Snohomish County. But the first question you have to ask is, why hasn’t a businessman stepped up to lead a Tacoma Dome bid? Somebody has to buy the land or convert the stadium and provide the ancillary amenities.

      If you’re considering the Tacoma Dome, why not the Kent Showare Center? It’s closer to Seattle and the Eastside. It already has hockey and gobs of free parking. It’s near 167 and I-5, and that exurban freeway 18. There’s a Sounder station and the 150, and the fast 180 to Link.

      1. Tukwila is in the same inauspicious position as Key Arena.

        You have to go into the Seattle Zone after you leave the highways and then fight for parking.

        Of course they want to build it there so all the grifters can get there cut, but once again, will it serve the citizen?


      2. 3000? You know how I know you’ve never been there…

        Even with the gross understatement, there is no current arena in Washington state with the capacity, amenities or sighlines to host an NHL team.

    6. Have you ever attempted to attend an event at the Tacoma Dome on a weeknight? It is absolute insanity. That arena handles traffic worse than any sporting venue I have ever seen.

  6. Part of the locational benefit is how well the activity arrival and departure peaks can be flattened by getting patrons into nearby restaurants and other places.

    How can these sites handle load surges on transit? How can the sites keep people from arriving or leaving all at once?

    1. I think that again shows the advantage of the downtown location. Not that it is perfect (as Martin mentioned) but it is still very good. People will end up walking quite a ways, but people do that for events. For a Husky basketball game you can see thousands of people walking south (to Montlake) or west (through campus). The same thing happened when the Sonics played at the Center. Lots of people walk a mile or so to their car. So walking a similar distance to the train is reasonable. If you are approaching from the north, this means you are walking by plenty of restaurants. After the game, the distance itself helps spread out the users. Assuming you have high frequency on the trains, this can work out just fine. As mentioned, work could be done to make the walking more pleasant (although there is strength in numbers — areas that might feel creepy most nights will feel just fine on game days).

      In general we have our stadiums in the wrong order. Baseball is played more than any other sport, which means it should be nestled into the heart of the city as it is in many cities. It should be where Seahawk Stadium is. Basketball/hockey is next, so it should be just south of there. Football is played least often (a dozen times a year) and on days where traffic is less of an issue (except for the occasional Monday night).
      It should be south of those (because location is less important).

      1. Don’t forget that there are two types of football.

        Seahawks have 10-13 home games (2 pre-season, 8 regular season, and up to 3 playoffs)

        Sounders are 17-30 (17 regular season, plus possible 2 CCL group stage, 3 ccl elimination games, 1 USOC final, 1-3 friendlies, and 4 MLS Cup playoffs)

        So, between the two you have in the 27-43 games per year.

        I don’t bring up college and high school games in the same sports, nor other events (dog shows, boat shows, motocross, etc) because I figure the other venues have similar random events so it becomes a wash.

        Additionally, look at the capacity of the venues. NBA will be 18.5k and NHL will be 17.5k, while football is 67k (before the additional seats are installed this summer), and soccer is 45ish average and growing.

        When you take both these factors into account, things break pretty close to event at roughly ~1.5 million people put through each venue per year (just for games for the primary and secondary tenants).

      2. @Goonda — Good point about the Sounders. I used to watch the first generation Sounders when they filled up the Kingdome. But even with the latest generation, you have a substantial number of people.

        I still think the number of weekday nights is key, not the total amount of people. Saturday or Sunday events tend to be less of a big deal. More express buses become available (buses that would normally sit idle). This is why, for example, the Montlake area is full of buses for a Husky football game, but nothing special happens for a basketball game. People tend to be in less of a hurry. If you are watching a Sounder game and have to walk an extra half mile to the game, you still walk that distance, because you have all day to get there and get back. Things are a lot different for a Tuesday night, coming from work (and having to work the next day).

        The Seahawks play a couple preseason weeknight games and a Monday night game this year. This is probably typical. So that is three nights where a Seahawk game will totally screw up traffic. I count three weekday games for the Sounders.

        As for other events, that is far more likely to happen with a hockey/basketball than with a huge stadium. It just costs too much, unless you are really popular. That is why, for example, the Reign never played there, despite being really successful (while the Storm played the Key Arena). Assuming the Storm moves and the Key Arena is torn down, all the events played in the Key move over to the new arena (and the Tacoma Dome). I’m talking concerts or other performances, rather than shows (home show, garden show, etc.). Those shows don’t screw up traffic as much because they don’t have a definite starting point.

        So I stick with my original statement: the order should be Baseball, Basketball/Hockey, Football (American and Association). Better yet the Baseball stadium should have handled both baseball and football (like Candlestick Park).

      3. Just to make the numbers complete:

        This season, the Sounders have already have 1 Tuesday friendly, they have one Wednesday game, and one Friday game. Additionally, the Sounders are guaranteed 2 CCL games (which must be on a weekday) that are not scheduled yet. The USOC games (which are all weekday) are generally played at Starfire (in Tukwila) except for the final, but demand exists that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a semifinal moved to CenturyLink Field within the next couple years. CCL and USOC games do tend to draw slightly smaller crowds than MLS games.

        I’d say a typical Sounders season would have 5-8 weekday home games.

        Regarding KeyArena, I can’t see it getting torn down in the event of a new NBA/NHL venue being built. There are just too many events combined between NBA, NHL, WNBA, SeattleU Basketball, Rollerderby, concerts, commencements, etc. for one venue to handle. I’d expect KeyArena to either stay in its current role, or to be rebuilt as a slightly smaller venue of 5-12k capacity.

        Regarding combining a baseball stadium into any other sports: that is always a horrible idea. Baseball requires too unique of a field layout to work well with any other sport. Football/soccer can work fairly well, if designed properly (good see CenturyLink Field, not-so-good see Gillette Stadium), because field dimensions are similar. Basketball/hockey can be made to work fairly well with removable court side seating and such. But anyway, that’s a discussion for another time.

  7. I actually like the Bellevue site. With a 6th St. pedestrian bridge, the combination of EastLink, the B-line, and the 271 to get to and from the game would actually work quite well. I’m not too concerned about the interim before EastLink finishes. At the moment, 2023 is 8 years away and the new arena hasn’t even advanced beyond location selection, nor is it even finalized yet that there even will be a new arena. Even once the plans are all finalized, the construction alone will still take several years, and by the time the arena is open for business, it will almost time for EastLink to open anyway, and if the talks with the NBA bog down a couple more years, EastLink may very well end up opening first. Worst case, we limp along with special-event buses for one year – hardly the end of the world.

    I don’t think the SODO location would be bad, although Bellevue does have the advantages that it avoids opposition from the Port over traffic concerns. I also like the general idea of spreading venues out across the region so more people are within a reasonable distance of some venue, provided, of course, that decent transit options can be maintained.

    As the opportunity cost of building condos/etc. at the Bellevue arena site, I think it’s less than one might think. The site really needs a pedestrian bridge over 405 at 6th St. to have good transit access. With condos, both the developers and the city would likely balk at the expense – it would be cheaper to ignore the transit options and say, as long as everybody has plenty of parking, who cares. With an arena, good transit access becomes critical to managing the congestion before and after games, which makes expenses like a pedestrian bridge over the freeway a lot more justifiable. Considering that the cost of a bridge would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the arena itself, the city could probably strong-arm the investors building the arena into paying for most of it.

    Of course, of the three sites, the Tukwila location is undoubtfully the worst. As long as BNSF owns the tracks, special-even Sounder service – tempting as it may seem – will likely never happen, and the transit options from pretty much everywhere except Renton are downtown horrible. The only saving grace is Sound Transit may be able to use it to get some extra weekday Sounder parking on the cheap by leasing the event parking during daytime weekday periods when there’s no event.

    1. The more I think about this, I agree. With the NE 6th Street bridge (or the recently proposed lid with green space over I-5) combined with the new site for the Downtown Bellevue station, the Bellevue site is a cakewalk from Link compared to the SODO site.

      One other advantage is that having facilities spread around the rail network means that we don’t have a huge capacity problem when two events at different facilities are going on at the same time.

    2. Agree with ASDF.

      As I’ve written before, Martin’s presumption that a transit-enabled sporting site must be close to the dead center of the region is a tacit admission that your transit “network” has failed. Meaning that there will be no “network effects” whatsoever between all of the ridiculous and exorbitant spindles you’ve labored to build.

      This flies on the face of every high-transit-usage sports palace on the planet, from Wrigley Field to Yankee Stadium to Wembley to Bercy. In fact, the dead-city-center sports-as-stimulus phenomenon is mostly associated with desperate Rust Belt burgs in the economic dumps, and has little to do with access convenience by any method.

      Add in the significantly less laborious pedestrian egress to Bellevue TC compared with SoDo Link, and Martin’s lower letter grade for the former (even in 2023) starts to look absurd.

      Furthermore, I disagree that today’s pre-Link Bellevue transit would be stuck in traffic, since the majority of drivers to games will come via 405, which 550 buses never enter, approach, or cross.

      East Coast and European precedents further suggest that an arena-sized event within a complete street grid — which central Bellevue mostly has, unlike either SoDo or KeyArena — places significantly less strain on the wider road network than does a stadium-sized event, much less rush hour.

      1. I didn’t say it “must” be at the center, I said it’s a plus. Yankee Stadium and Wrigley are great but if they were in the downtown cores transit ridership would be even higher.

        I also think that having traffic-separated, late-night frequent transit in (at least) three directions is superior to having it in two. If ST3 passes with 405 BRT (and with Link-like priority/frequency) I think the Bellevue site is actually superior.

        For the record I don’t think the Bellevue site is some sort of failure to properly consider transit in the arena plan.

      2. Yep, we don’t have a network that extends from Tacoma to Everett to Bellevue. Deal with it. We have bits and pieces of a network, and if we build more, it will be in Seattle, not Bellevue. Put a stadium in downtown Seattle, and way more people are close to it. Put a stadium in Tacoma/Everett/Lynnwood/Bellevue and for way more people it makes sense to drive. As I said above, put a station in Bellevue and huge numbers of people who ride transit to the game will go within spitting distance of a SoDo stadium. Of course, many won’t ride transit, because they don’t want to get home before midnight. Drive to Lynnwood/Shoreline/Angle Lake/Northgate Park and Ride and go downtown to catch a game? Sure. Drive there and take two trains to Bellevue? Never mind, I’ll drive. Meanwhile folks in Issaquah, New Castle and the like will simply take the train west, instead of east from the South Bellevue Park and Ride. They still aren’t driving as much. Those are the park and ride users. The number of people who can ride end to end or just walk to the station is still better with SoDo (even though it is less than ideal — as I said above, they put the stadiums in the wrong place — typical lack of Seattle foresight).

        About the only other area that works well for a transit network is the UW, which already has a couple of stadiums (and more if you count soccer, baseball, etc.). This is part of the network that needs filling in and the part of the network that will (hopefully) improve over time. Ballard to UW light rail plus light rail from north and south (and plenty of buses) leaves only 520. We need to build much better bus service along 520 (and hook it up to the station next to Husky Stadium) anyway, and a side benefit will be folks getting to the occasional basketball game will have a much better ride (football games are handled with special buses anyway).

        But an area like Bellevue, even the one they are thinking about, will simply lead to a lot more people driving.

      3. I can definitely see the argument both ways. I will not argue that SODO is a bad site. Tukwila is a bad site, and an arena at SODO could be a catalyst for much-needed pesestrian improvements there, just as in Bellevue. Both also do, as d.p. pointed out, get the arena somewhere that is transit-accessible (meaning accessible by a form of transit that actually scales well enough to handle event crowds), yet somewhat away from the center of town so it doesn’t become a big, ugly, empty blog to have to walk past whenever there’s no game going on.

        To me, what tips the scales in favor of Bellevue is traffic concerns when the Mariners or Sounders are also playing at the same time, plus concerns raised by the port about truck traffic having to contend with game traffic. A Bellevue site also works well with EastLink and 405 BRT, which would each take people right there.

      4. The problem with the Tukwila site of course is the horrible placement of light rail in that area.

        Since there’s a giant interchange between the two train stations, the mall, and most of the land that could be used for a stadium, there would pretty much have to be a brand new transit line for there to be any venue that is reasonable accessible by more than one mode.

  8. If an arena is built, I hope it is built in SODO.

    The Hansen proposal has included creating an entertainment district along with the arena and that is an intriguing idea. The benefits having an entertainment district in SODO would be that there isn’t any adjacent residential population to complain about noise and mayhem. If the SODO area becomes an entertainment district, then Belltown could evolve into a neighborhood that goes to bed by 11pm and is safe for families and kids during the evening hours. If an arena is built in SODO, I hope the City Council will see that as an opportunity to focus on building Belltown into a more family-friendly neighborhood.

    Then, with more families and kids living in Belltown there would be a need for nearby schools. How about converting some of the Seattle Center wasteland into an educational campus for Seattle’s public schools? The Science Center is already there, so is Memorial Stadium, plus the Opera and Ballet also have a home at the Seattle Center. Add a K-12 program to serve the families in Belltown and Queen Anne and the Seattle Center will become more community friendly.

    If the SODO arena is built, the Coliseum/Key Arena could then be down-sized to about 6,000 seats and serve as the marquee facility for shows that don’t need a 20,000 seat arena. Parking and transportation plans could be adjusted to right-size the facilities in Uptown to offer enough capacity for 6,000 people without having to plan for the occasional 20,000 person event.

    If the arena and entertainment district is built in SODO, restaurants could count on large crowds on a regular basis. With all the sporting events and concerts in the SODO area, restaurants would be able to plan for good business on a regular basis. As it is now, the summer time is pretty good for restaurants in SODO and Pioneer Square, but winter is tough. With the new arena, business would sustain itself through the winter and more restaurants would survive in those neighborhoods. Similarly, the restaurant scene in Uptown would improve by having a more regular business pattern.

  9. Good stuff. I think when you’ve got 20,000-30,000+ people coming in and out of an event, light rail is a must. If there’s parking, charge for it.

  10. Did you guys forget to evaluate a fourth site. The other Tukwila Site that Sabey owns by Boeing Access Road?

    1. The Sabey property seems unacceptable. Building a huge arena where crowds of 20,000 people gather on a regular basis at the end of a very busy airport runway would likely run afoul of either FAA or DHS regulations. At least I hope it would.

    2. I believe that location is dead. If you know otherwise, I’ll be happy to post a correction.

      And it’s a shame, because that site has a lot of potential.

  11. Something to keep in mind is that hockey and basketball are winter sports. And that season is typically Seattle’s worst when it comes to weather. Nothing like good old Seattle rain to discourage long walks to public transit. Not to mention it being dark going to the games as well as leaving them.

    1. One thing to keep in mind is that compared to most of the rest of the USA and Canada, Seattle has wonderful weather even in the winter. Compare, for example, the four block walk to United Center in Chicago at typical -20 degree Chicago temperatures with typical Chicago 30 mph winds.

      Consider it a home court advantage when fans of teams from somewhere in California or Phoenix visit.

      1. Seattle winters are fine as long as it doesn’t snow: Due to our limited ROW public transit options, transportation via cars and buses can be dangerous and slow, even stopped in its tracks—car crashes, stranded cars if the snow is really heavy, and jackknifed articulated buses on ice that isn’t taken care of by the DOT. Limited options to go above or below the snow and ice. But I guess we’ve been lucky the past few years.

      2. You’ll have that type of issue on no matter where the arena is placed, though.

    2. That is a good point, and really means we need to solve the “last mile” problem here, from the station to the stadium. I think a lot has to do with how pleasant the walk is. I’ve walked at least that far when parking for a UW basketball game, or the old Sonics. It is just what you do. But in both cases the walking was fairly pleasant (not industrial). If the area can be “spruced up” or made more lively, then I think it would encourage folks to go. It behooves the owners to do this. A lot of people will try transit and if they find it creepy (or just unpleasant) they will start driving. Then if they get tired of the traffic, they will simply stop going.

      1. “I’ve walked at least that far when parking for a UW basketball game, or the old Sonics. It is just what you do. But in both cases the walking was fairly pleasant (not industrial)”

        Bingo. Walking a mile through LQA from my “free” spot to catch games at the Coliseum ( sigh, I am that old ) was fun. You stopped at a bar on the way, grab a beer. Walking through SODO for that distance? Yuck, dodging trucks, jumping huge puddles/potholes, in the dark…

      2. Totally agree. At least at UW and KeyArena there aren’t any trains that randomly block your path for indeterminate amounts of time.

        Pedestrian grade-separation on at least one of those rail crossings south of Royal Brougham is essential if we think anyone would use SODO station. Stadium station is so much better with the pedestrian crossing that even if I was coming from the south, I’d use Stadium and walk back to Holgate.

    3. I meant to add, I scaled the walking distances from the SODO arena to the Link stations, and it was 0.75 miles to each; about a 20-minute walk, allowing for crowds and traffic signals.

  12. In terms of access improvements around the SODO site, keep in mind that the Hansen proposal would require a street vacation, and the DRB and Council will absolutely require a whole host of mobility-related improvements in the area.

  13. Do pro ice rinks rent themselves for recreational use during the off season? If so, the SODO location looks even better, as there’s no ice rink south of Seattle until Renton: it would fill in a geographical hole.

    1. Generally not for the general public, but stuff like Disney on Ice use them.

  14. All that surface bus parking around Ryerson Base, and not a single way to put an arena directly above it to create less wasted land….

  15. The Bellevue location is “within reasonable walking distance of the Bellevue Transit Center” only if the 4th Street extension is extended fully across 405. Currently it goes halfway across to freeway-bus exits. I’ve heard interest in the 4th Street extension but I don’t think it’s a done deal yet. Without it, the nearest transit access is four blocks north at Hospital Station (of Chick-fil-A fame) and RapidRide B. That is an easy walk of course. The only walking access to BTC is across 405 at 8th, and that’s very unpleasant and moderately dangerous with the many slip ramps.

    My main concern about a Bellevue stadium is the building shape. A standalone building with parking next to it would ruin the urban potential of 116th. Wrigley Stadium is a nice standalone building but it’s not downtown; it’s in an uptown-like neighborhood like Ballard. Are there any examples of stadiums hidden in downtown-like buildings with housing and shopping above and around them? That would allow it to be unobtrusive and not a pedestrian barrier when there’s no game going on.

    The Tukwila Longacres site looks pretty good location-wise, much better than the west Tukwila location. The city is planning a pedestrian bridge from the station to a new urban village on Baker Blvd, and from there you can walk to the mall and the 150.

    The SODO location is pretty clear: an existing transit super-hub, but a long walk from the actual transit stations. Only the buses stopping at Holgate would be an easy walk. What I’m more interested in is what the “entertainment district” would be like. There are a few scattered clubs in SODO, each of them isolated from complementary uses (things that concert-goers would also go to). What would the entertainment district have in it besides clubs, what land would it take up, and what industrial businesses would it displace?

    I’m also thinking about Bailo’s wish for dense residential in south Seattle. The best place seems to be adjacent to Georgetown. It’s more reliable to build up an existing neighborhood center than to create one from scratch. In Georgetown’s case I think we’d want to preserve the one-story core. It’s so small it’s not too much space, unlike in the U-District or Broadwa. So apartment towers could be “around” it somehow, although I’m not sure of the exact locations, or if there are any suitable locations within walking distance given I-5 and the major roads and railroads. And again I’d be concerned about which industrial lots it would displace and how significant they are. But theoretically we could have a string of urban villages from Holgate Street to the brewery and Georgetown.

    1. The Bellevue location is “within reasonable walking distance of the Bellevue Transit Center” only if the 4th Street extension is extended fully across 405.

      What? I’m looking at Google Maps right now and seeing a bridge across I-405 at 4th, two longish blocks from the future Bellevue Link east portal and three from BTC.

      1. OK, neither the 4th or 6th overpasses existed when I lived in Bellevue, and nowadays I see the 6th Street one all the time from the B whereas I’ve never seen the 4th Street one, so I didn’t realize they were two different overpasses rather than the same one.

    2. My biggest concern about Tukwila is that you would need a massive upgrade to transit in the area to be able to handle more than about 1% of event-goers without hour-long waits for a bus back that has space. You’d either have to operate special-event shuttles or significantly increase the frequency of the 150 and F-line. Service hours are expensive, and with it ongoing, every single gameday, it would be difficult to get the team to pay for it. I am also operating under the assumption that, however expensive it would be to operate a fleet of buses, Sounder – even just from Tukwila to Seattle – would be even more expensive. BNSF is already known to gauge Sound Transit for all they’re worth, and they would not hesitate to do it again.

      1. Oddly enough, this is one of the situations where gondolas might make a little bit of sense.

        High crowd volumes going between just 2-3 locations needing to cross massive freeway interchanges when the alternatives are spindly bus routes that take forever to get from one end to the other. It could possibly even be done with private money and give TIBS station some actual strong ridership once in a while.

    3. Can’t go too high in Georgetown, Mike. Otherwise the planes would have to delay locking the gear pretty darn late!

  16. The Tukwila location has great multi-modal potential and brings economic opportunities to areas less blessed than Bellevue or Seattle. It is right behind the Embassy Suites Hotel, in close proximity to Southcenter Mall (served by myriad bus lines) and right off of West Valley Highway. The station already has Bike Lockers + cage for 40 bikes, and ties into the Interurban Trail. This proposed arena location offers direct service by Sounder commuter rail, King County Metro and Amtrak Cascades. Though not served by Link Light rail you can easily take the Rapid Ride F Line to the Tukwila international Boulevard Station in 12 minutes and ride the Link into Downtown Seattle. In the near term, the Union Pacific third rail re-alignment is already underway with asphalt visible as a placeholder. PSRC Vision 2040 funds will allow for expansion of the Seattle-Tacoma-Lakewood Sounder service, as well as related track and signal improvements along the Seattle/Tacoma Sounder line. Up to 26 trains (13 round trips) in the south will be provided through agreements with the BNSF.

    1. 40 bike spaces is statistically irrelevant.

      The rest of your comments don’t seem to engage with the arguments above at all. The buses will be stuck in postgame traffic. The train runs are unlikely to be when a night game gets out, or on weekends at all.

      1. Race and equity is a priority for transportation investments, including from USDOT Federal Transit Administration. The bigger picture of Tukwila “engages” multiple variable and modes. 40 bike parking spots can be 400 easily, and BNSF is already on board.

      2. They have the Tukwila station site prepped for a 3rd passenger rail, and BNSF has agreed to 26 more Sounder commuter trains. The cost is in the hundreds of millions.

      3. “and BNSF has agreed to 26 more Sounder commuter trains”

        trains which will be running during rush hour and, perhaps midday Monday-Friday. Not in the evening when the game is over and everybody is trying to get home.

      4. Since this would be a private venue, maybe the stadium builders would be willing to put forward private funds for a low cost connective transit option.

      5. BNSF in “onboard” it’s ES44AC’s with 120 cars of PWB coal trailing. BNSF is “onboard” its SD90MAC’s with 115 cars of Bakken crude.

        BNSF is not “onboard” P59’s with bi-levels trailing.

      6. 40 bike spaces is statistically irrelevant.
        Tukwila has a 40 bike cage and 16 bike lockers whereas SODO has only 16 bike lockers. An arena situated adjacent to the Tukwila Station on Longacres Way would reap benefits from being en route to the newly reopened racetrack at Emerald Downs. One example, weekend Sounder service from Lakewood to Seattle.

      7. Let’s start again. The PSRC is going to fund additional Sounder runs beyond ST2’s plans? How many will be off-peak?

    2. If the stadium builders run a gondola from TIBS to their stadium site, transit might work. Otherwise, the arguments above apply.

      Tukwila is a terrible place to try and get around by transit. The mall complex is one of the least walkable ones I have been to in this state.

  17. It hasn’t been mentioned yet, so I feel the need to do so: The City Center connector at present seems favored to run down 1st before a turn at Jackson to merge with the First Hill line. If the 1st avenue tracks were extended down a few blocks it would probably help put a dent in the “last mile” problem. The intersection at 1st and Jackson would end up getting a bit more complex if the connection to First Hill is still to happen, and the Port probably would be rather unhappy to see the streetcar inching further south. But otherwise It seems to be a sensible addition to the streetcar network.

    1. With exclusive lanes running down 1st, there ought to be room for a 3rd line running from LQA to Stadiums.

      Whether it would actually happen or not is a different story though. Local sentiment seems to have turned against the idea of any more new streetcars (after CCC and Broadway) for the foreseeable future.

      1. It doesn’t help that our streetcars don’t carry any more people per train than our buses.

  18. Don’t forget seattlelites are much less likely to go to the suburbs (Tukwila and Bellevue) than suburbanites are to go to seattle(Soho)

    1. If the NHL team is built into a Stanley Cup contender (I’m aware it won’t happen immediately with an expansion team), it won’t matter if its 15 miles outside of Seattle proper. It will blow up big time.

      1. Doubtful. Hockey isn’t very big here. Almost no one plays it growing up, and the only regular watchers are transplants from hockey cities.

        It would gain a following, but would be nothing like the Mariners or Seahawks or Sonics.

      2. “If the NHL team is built into a Stanley Cup contender (I’m aware it won’t happen immediately with an expansion team), it won’t matter if its 15 miles outside of Seattle proper. It will blow up big time.”

        True. NHL in the Pacific Northwest would bring fans from all over the West Coast. The next closest teams are Vancouver BC (not everyone can enter Canada) and San Jose. An arena that is 12 miles outside of Seattle probably doesn’t matter to someone traveling from Eastern Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and what is more important is that when they arrive (by Amtrak or by air) they can get to the game and AFFORD to stay overnight. Amtrak deposits fans at the proposed Tukwila site. If arriving by air the long-established airport shuttle services offer guests pick up/drop off services, as well as area transportation within a certain distance. This includes food, movies and entertainment at Southcenter—which is also the largest shopping mall in Washington state–and mass transit at the Tukwila Transit Center—the location of the proposed arena.

  19. Dispite my general apathy for the Eastside, I have to say the 405 might be the best place in the long run. There is enough land to make a pretty cool entertainment district around it, and Link could effectively draw in people from the west pretty good and if the BTR lines they are talking about on the east and made, it will be pretty connected. Also there is a lot of corporate money to be had on that side.

    The Tacoma Dome would not work dispite what John thinks for NHL and NBA, but I wonder about niche sports. Following the same Model as San Jose, getting some niche sports like Lacrosse or Arena Football might work if the dome is remodeled a bit. Pierce County is growing and it is under served by live sports, I wonder if AFL team could make it if they had a tv deal with Root or JoeTv

  20. Regarding the Bellevue site, there’s already a plan to add pedestrian access across 6th St. I don’t know the timing. Right now, there are 405 crossings at 12, 10, 8, 4, and Main.

    The area where the stadium is proposed doesn’t have any character right now. It’s a bunch of auto dealerships and a pot store. Oh, and Chick-Fil-A. The auto dealerships are moving north (toward the Porsche and Maserati dealerships) leaving a lot of open land.

    Bellevue would actually be an ideal spot. It’s open, somewhat urban, and surprisingly close to the city core. But there’s a Seattle bias that can’t be fought–westsiders don’t go east unless they’re forced to, and when they are forced to they whine about it like someone took away their last PBR. The stadium won’t end up in Bellevue.

  21. There is on other big plus for the Bellevue site : almost no additional parking would have to be built. Downtown Bellevue has 10,000’s of parking spaces in Office buildings throughout downtown. In the evening these are basically empty (Bellevue is very 9-5).

    It would be a great use of this resource to have office buildings sell their evening parking spots for stadium visitors in evenings and weekends.

  22. Currently, the Sounder train offers special event weekend service inbound. “Game day train schedule to Seattle/King Street Station for games with 1 p.m or 1:10 p.m. start times.” See dates here:
    “Special weekend service runs on select weekends in late morning from Lakewood, South Tacoma, Tacoma, Puyallup and Sumner to Auburn Station; return trips run mid-afternoon, leaving Seattle after the Mariners or Sounders FC game ends*.” Emerald Downs (in Auburn) has capitalized on this special event weekend service (use of the BNSF tracks) and there is every reason to think Tukwila would do the same (in the off-season).
    There is no weekend outbound Sounder service from Seattle because there is nowhere to go.

  23. “Anything Bellevue can do to grant transit priority nearby would also help, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

    Nicely understated. No way in hell it’s going in Bellevue. Sodo is the only site that makes sense and that’s why the dude with the money has already bought property there. Sort of like ST has already bought the property for the East Link MB and all the public hearings are just hot air. Done deal.

  24. They all suck. None of them is adjacent to a LINK station. People say the SoDo station is well-served by transit, but it is a 12-minute walk from the nearest LINK station. They could maybe add a station at Holgate for cheap, but I wouldn’t want LINK slowed down anymore than it already is. If they moved SoDo station to Holgate, that would be the only way to make it convenient. That would result in about a 5-6 minute walk to the arena instead of 12 minutes.

    1. Seriously? You are concerned that the prospect of a 12-minute walk is going to deter people from taking transit to a game? Plenty of people who DRIVE end up having to walk at least that far. Out of curiosity, do you ever attend sporting events at Safeco or CenturyLink?

      1. The 12 minute walk to a car and transit really aren’t comparable. The difference is that at the end of the 12 minute walk, people driving have access to a personal vehicle that leaves whenever they want and can travel quickly and directly home (given WSDOT doesn’t turn their highway ramp meters on). People taking transit get to battle the crowds on the platform for a spot on Link. Then they take the train. Then they either get picked up from a station, walk to their car from a station, walk home from the station or transfer to another service to complete their trip.

      2. I think the people commenting here don’t attend sporting events. Unless we’re talking about an April Tuesday-night Mariners game against Tampa Bay, somebody parked within a 12-minute walk of the stadium isn’t going to be traveling anywhere quickly after the game.

      3. Sorry my anecdotes don’t match up with yours, Jon. In my ~20 years attending sporting events here, I’ve never been stuck in traffic out of the stadium area when leaving an event for more than 5 minutes. It helps that I’ve always gone with people smart enough not to try to take a direct path to the freeway. That 12- or 20-minute walk to parking south of the stadium area gets you out of the worst of the after-event congestion. From there, you have a quick and direct car ride home. I’m not saying driving is always the best option, but it definitely is at night, given the way our service drops off.

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