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The last time we had a civic discussion about a new basketball/hockey arena, let’s just say it didn’t go well. There was politically convenient fear mongering about our Working Waterfront and industrial jobs. There was the hypocritical HIGHF (Hey! I Got Here First!) form of corporate NIMBYism from the Seattle Mariners. There was charmingly predictable concern trolling about traffic, where disaster is always around the corner if only _insert project_ is built. To top it off, many arena supporters then poisoned the well by bitterly gendering their disgust.

While we’re still no closer to bringing leather balls and wooden sticks back to Seattle, the recent proposal by developer Chris Hansen offers us the welcome chance of a civic redo. In one fell swoop, his offer to plug the funding gap for the Lander Street Overpass protects Port interests while improving traffic outcomes; and his proposal to build the new arena without public funding relieves us of another reason for (legitimate) infighting.

A contestable premise: Stadia don’t belong in urban neighborhoods, they belong on the urban-industrial edge.  Stadia are infrequently used, special purpose structures that fragment neighborhoods. As the most egregious example, Husky Stadium is used less than 10 times per yearOn account of those select fall Saturdays, thousands of bus passengers have to walk farther to transfer every day, thousands of students and faculty cannot live nearer their university, and hundreds of acres of asphalt lay mostly idle.

If we build a new arena in Sodo, we should tear down the Key and return housing to Seattle Center. Seattle 2035 calls for “Uptown” (Lower Queen Anne) to be an Urban Center, the same designation as Capitol Hill, Downtown, or Northgate. Just a mile from downtown, LQA currently only houses about 10,000 people in predominantly low-rise structures, or only 1.5% of the city’s population. If ST3 passes, a subway station will be located two blocks away at Queen Anne/Mercer, with quick access to Ballard, South Lake Union, Downtown, the Rainier Valley, and SeaTac. Lower Queen Anne needs people, not occasional large events.

Key Arena sits on 48 historic parcels covering most of 4 city blocks, and it’s only used for 18 Storm games and every 3 weeks or so for concerts and other events. If there were a successful renovation and if that were to draw a team, you could add another 40 days a year of activation. But that would still leave 280 days a year in which people would walk, bike, bus, train, and drive around it as an obstacle, rather than to it as a destination.

Stadia on the periphery are much better for a city and its residents. Upper Sodo is perfect for sports, acting as a partially-activated and aesthetically pleasing bridge between an urban core and heavy industry. LQA and the Mercer Mess will never work well for SOV access, and if we build the neighborhood for people that’s kinda the point. The subway station we hope to build should be accessible to as many Seattleites as possible as often as possible. Since the top of Queen Anne is set to be ossified as a Single-Family Zone, the four blocks of Key Arena offer precious mid or high-rise capacity. And with a 135′ arena already on site, tall housing is already ‘in scale’.

Sodo will never be good for dense housing, but LQA will. LQA will never be good for SOV access, but Sodo will. And while Sodo is less transit-accessible than LQA will be, better to solve an occasional problem than limit an everyday social good (housing). Mr. Murray, tear down this Key.

113 Replies to “Tear Down Key Arena for Housing”

  1. Husky Stadium only gets used 10 times per year, primarily because it has an owner-tenant, and because it is an outdoor venue in a relatively cold and wet climate (compared to, say, San Diego or Dallas). Key Arena could get used far more often. Now, I am no sports fan, but, if you booked it out for basketball, hockey, political rallies, concerts, conventions, and other events, it would be a destination, not an obstacle. As a society, we need to rethink event space, in general. At this point in time, there is no reason why the Tacoma Dome (or Showare Center, or a host of other special-purpose spaces already existing in our region) couldn’t also fill this need. We don’t need a massive dome in every single small city or suburb in the region. We need one or two, that’s it; there simply isn’t a demand for more than that. Wherever it goes, it should be easily accessible to transit. SODO and Lower Queen Anne are both great locations. I’ll add, a multipurpose stadium, like the Kingdome, is a much better use of our space and resources, and it is unfortunate that we chose to publicly fund construction of two separate stadiums.

    This discussion is far more complex than anybody is making it out to be.

    1. What’s the point of two arenas competing for the same acts? Have one and use it very efficiently.

      1. Key word there is competition. It’s tricky because the Key is a public arena, but if they were both private, it would be much healthier to have two arenas competing for events.

        In a large city like Seattle, there should be many days were both arenas are hosting events, especially if a basketball or hockey team becomes a tenant at one of them.

      2. There was a great article written — by a sports writer no less — about Husky Stadium before they renovated. He basically called for the team to share Seahawk Stadium and put the area around the stadium to good use (by expanding the hospital). From a transportation standpoint, about the only advantage to Husky Stadium is that many of the fans (the students especially) walk to the game. But that isn’t why they rebuilt it, of course, it was to please the donors. For nostalgic and aesthetic reasons they prefer having the game there.

      3. “What’s the point of two arenas competing for the same acts?”

        Not competing for the same acts, but allowing more acts to take place simultaneously. That enhances the city’s economy and cultural life. The biggest problem with Safeco Field is it’s a single-purpose stadium. The intention behind that was both to promote the idea of baseball as the #1 sport, and to maximize baseball’s ticket sales because of that. But because the stadium can’t be used for other things it’s as space-wasting as a one-story church that’s full only on Sundays.

    2. The footprint for the Key is insufficient for the NHL and it will have to be expanded in order to create enough seating for the NHL to pencil out. The footprint doesn’t financially work for the NBA either. There doesn’t appear to be plans to expand the footprint and could run into political obstacles if it was attempted–the possibility of landmark status with its present footprint and roof and opposition from LQA residents who don’t want the construction interfering with their lives nor professional sport fans trekking all over the neighborhood looking for too few parking spaces. Furthermore, the lack of a resolution to the Mercer traffic mess short of a very quick expansion of light rail into LQA will not allow a rebuild of the Key Arena for the NHL and the NBA to be an acceptable plan to the city..

      That being said, smaller concert and sporting events (Rat City Rollergirls roller derby and the WNBA) should work for a rebuilt Key assuming the same footprint.

      1. For smaller events the smaller capacity Mercer Arena makes sense. This sits dormant while Seattle tries to figure out how to handle their activities. I say we build another baseball stadium!

      2. The problem with the Mercer Arena is that, from what I understand, it needs millions of dollars in upgrades/repairs to bring it up to code or at least make it usable, but there hasn’t been any interest in doing so. I think the Seattle Opera is presently making use of it for storage. This city doesn’t want to spend money on any kind of infrastructure, no matter how useful it would be.

      3. The NBA seems fine with the Coliseum’s structural constraints, otherwise the idea to reuse it for a future Sonics wouldn’t have gotten this far.

        What I don’t understand is, the Coliseum was remodeled for the NBA and it was considered adequate then, so why does it need another remodel for the NBA now? It sounds like the NBA just making unnecessary demands, such as more luxury boxes to increase its profits. Of course it needs maintenance replacements and they’ve no doubt found some design mistakes that can be fixed, but a whole makeover sounds like a woman throwing out her wardrobe to buy the suite that’s on the fashion runway this year.

      4. Schultz was losing money w/ the constraints—not enough premium seats and luxury boxes plus the building is too small for the NHL. It doesn’t need a remodel for the NBA nor the NHL for the footprint doesn’t pencil out financially for either league. However, a remodel could work if you are doing it to make the Key more palatable as a facility for smaller scale entertainment and sports.

        A Key remodel w/ an expanded footprint could create an arena that could pencil out financially for both leagues, but could it be achieved politically given the potential obstacles of possible landmark status for the existing footprint/roof and LQA resident opposition?

        But then the traffic issues would be hard to resolve in the near term w/o Light Rail.

      5. Schultz was losing money because the team sucked. All losing teams lose money. But guess what? The team got better. Seattle is a much, much bigger market than OKC (which is why Mark Cuban voted against the move) but it doesn’t matter, because the Thunder is a really good team. Even with Durant they are a great team, as Westbrook decided to stick around. There was nothing wrong with the coliseum — if Paul Allen owned the team it would still be here.

        Besides, you don’t buy a basketball team to make money. You buy a basketball team to have fun. It is like buying an antique car. You don’t charge for rides; you make money when you sell it (and until then, you enjoy it). Stupid rich white guys.

    3. “Husky Stadium only gets used 10 times per year”

      The flip side of that is that its traffic disruptions occur only 10 times per year.

  2. you could add another 40 days a year of activation. But that would still leave 300 days a year in which people would walk, bike, bus, train, and drive around it as an obstacle, rather than to it as a destination.

    LQA also has a number of restaurants and Key Arena is part of the rest of the Seattle Center as part of a fairly successful event space. The food court and retail space in a remodeled Key Arena could become part of the surrounding area rather than an obstacle if designed to integrate into what is already there.

    These indoor arenas tend to be massive, windowless affairs. Maybe a remodeled Key could be buried deeper (anything that is a windowless structure can be reasonably put underground rather than above it) and the housing development put on top?

    1. The goal of any remodel is to avoid moving the roof. If you more the roof, you might as well build a new stadium.

      But yes, maximizing the event space is key (pun!) – it is used for concerts, conferences, and tournaments. Much more than just sports.

    2. Yup, Key Arena/LQA has a very similar setup to Wrigleyville and before the economy got better, losing the Sonics took a big time hit to the neighborhood. Granted Wrigleyville has 81 home games plus concerts, but an arena with three pro teams (NBA, NHL, WNBA) has the potential for at least 99 home games a year, plus Seattle U basketball, concert and events. Even with one pro team, the arena is still marginally utilized.

      Key Arena is a positive asset to the neighborhood. Call me crazy, but I would even go as far as saying that we should also rebuild Memorial Stadium as a more efficient football/soccer stadium for high school, FC Reign and small Sounders games (Open Cup games), similar to StubHub Center, but smaller (~10-15k).

      Neighborhoods are not meant to be endless swaths of residential dwellings. We have enough room to build housing, let’s not tear down the Key Arena just because it’s not the most efficient use of space, we need places for entertainment. And places of entertainment are usually not the most efficient use of space.

      1. There is already a plan to rebuild memorial stadium. It’s going to be raised with ~1K parking spaces to be put under it, enabling the large parking garage to the north to be torn down (to be replaced by a new theatre, I think?)

        Seattle Center’s long term plan is a good read, I’d recommend checking it out.

      2. The Coliseum is a one-story space-waster, its protruding concrete supports waste even more space, and it’s an ugly 1960s modernist design. That’s not enough to make me want to tear it down willy-nilly, but it does invite consideration of whether a different structure could more effectively use the space and meet more of the city’s overall needs. One thing that could be considered is a complex that includes a stadium, or apartments above a stadium.

      3. Memorial Stadium could probably be designed better. Right now it takes a big chunk out of the Center’s space, and if you’re going to a Bumbershoot concert you have to walk around two sides of blank walls to get to the entrance. It does need an entrance from the outside since most of its high-school sports attendees are not coming from the Center, but it should be integrated with the Center better, and possibly downsized if feasible.

      4. @Mike: I know Seattle has wanted to remodel/rebuild Memorial Stadium forever, but never made much progress. I visit it for Reign games and can attest that stadium needs to go, it’s kind of an embarrassment and just isn’t a fun place to visit. I don’t like the minimalist field stadium in the Master Plan and would prefer a ~5k to 10k person intimate stadium, which could draw events and maybe even Sounders Open Cup games.

        And I agree that Key Arena needs to go, as it currently exists. As you mentioned, a much more efficient design could be built and sunken, if need be. I don’t know about putting housing above it. Between noise and crowds, it doesn’t seem like it would be a very appealing place to live. We could make it low income housing, but that seems wrong.

    3. Small related quibble. You have 42 regular season games assuming no playoffs. Add three more for preseason to round it up to 45. For playoffs you could have anywhere from none to 16. So add five more for each team. Add another 20 for the WNBA and 10 for Seattle U. With both NHL and NBA, you are now up to around 130 events. Even before you start counting concerts, special sporting events (e. g. NCAA playoffs) you are getting up there. Most of these events are in the winter, although the WNBA plays in the summer. Most concerts as well as the big Seattle Center events (Folk Life and Bumbershoot) are in the summer as well, which means that it balances out fairly well. I agree with the overall argument, but I don’t think we should dismiss the Arena as being dormant most of the time. Half the time, maybe — but not most the time.

  3. I agree, Key Arena should go, and Husky Stadium too. If Seattle doesn’t need two basketball stadiums it really doesn’t need two football stadiums. That whole area around Husky stadium would make a beautiful dense neighborhood, with great transit and terrific waterfront views. I wonder if concussionball will even be in another generation.

    1. If there is an argument to eliminate a stadium, it’s the football stadium. Arenas can be used year-round. Football stadiums are not.

      This won’t happen for decades because UW just dropped >$100M into renovations that need to be paid off. But hopefully this is a discussion next time Husky stadium needs major work done.

      1. Martin – do you think if the UW station existed at the time of this discussion,would that have tilted the conversation?

        Pre light rail, it’s 30 minute bus ride to the stadium, enough to clearly depress attendance for students going to the game. Having light rail really strengthens the argument for playing downtown at some point in the future

      2. Good writing Martin, I agree. It doesn’t make sense to have TWO football stadiums (maybe two soccer & football stadiums but I’m very much not following UofW soccer) in one city when the UofW could build some student housing at that spot instead.

      3. Linking rather than repeating:

        Anyway, the stadium thing is ridiculous. I am a big sports fan, but the end result is profoundly stupid. We have two football stadiums and a baseball stadium, but no basketball team. We lost our longest existing franchise because we got tired of subsidizing the teams. It is absolutely ridiculous. The San Fransisco Giants and 49ers used to play at the same place. If that can work for a city as big and wealthy as San Fransisco, it could have worked for us. The Sonics didn’t need a new arena, the owner just lacked the patience to see his hall of fame player get some experience. The Thunder has been in the playoffs every year but one since they moved, and has made it to the finals. You bet your ass Mr. Coffee man would have made bank if he just had the patience to stick it out. Imagine playing the Vancouver Grizzlies in the playoffs, which happened in back to back years (2013 and 2014). That would have been fantastic. But instead Memphis and Oklahoma City battled it out. Fu** David Stern and all the punk ass owners whose business model involves exploiting cities. Good for you Paul Allen and Mark Cuban for voting against the move.

        Sorry, got a little off topic there. Seriously though, what a mess.

      4. The concept of a mixed-use KeyArena applies to Husky Stadium too. Its redundancy as a second football stadium is a problem, but the biggest problem is its failure to incorporate denser every-day uses around it. The station entrance is a standalone structure. There could be apartments or businesses or university rooms around the stadium. There are no restaurants or basic retail within a 5-minute walk of either the stadium or the medical center across the street, so that’s a lack that should be fixed anyway to avoid tower-in-the-park stuck-ness (you have to go out of the neighborhood for everything). Housing is difficult because the area is a toxic-waste landfill that would be expensive to clean up, but it should at least be considered rather than the UW treating the stadium as a holy monument that must not have any riff-raff spaces around it detracting from its awesomeness.

      5. If the Huskies played at CenturyLink Field, there would extreme fixture congestion. In the last nine days, the Sounders have played 3 games there. Since the last two of those were playoff games, their scheduling was uncertain until last week. If Huskies football and the Seahawks shared the stadium, they would be playing on average a game each week between September and December. Add in the Sounders finishing out their season, and you would indeed have a busy stadium at that time, but you would also have a scheduling nightmare.

      6. Ross – with you man. Any and all solutions should assume zero public funding of arena construction or renovations. I’d like the city to have 2 arena, but I’d rather have zero arenas than see +$100M of public money spent on sports infrastructure.

      7. The San Antonio Spurs used to play basketball in their football stadium. Maybe a theoretical new stadium for basketball doesn’t need to exist at all.

      8. We used to have a very good dome stadium named after the county. It housed basketball, football, soccer and baseball for a while. Not especially well, but it did so cheaply.

    2. Husky Stadium has been there since 1930. It is owned by the University of Washington, in addition to all of the parking and athletic facilities around it. The parking is used by the UW Hospital Doctors, Nurses and employees during the week. No tax money has been used to construct Husky Stadium. In 1930 it was built with student fees, student labor, and some alumni donations. Other additions and improvements have been funded through ticket sales and alumni contributions. The parking North of the stadium has long been used by commuter students, many of whom are middle to lower income students who live with their parents while earning their degree. There is a proposal to significantly expand the computer science department, which may involve building in the North Montlake lot, across from where they are already going to expand on the old Nuclear Engineering site. That lot will likely have future campus buildings and parking structures in decades to come. The University needs the land it has had since the early 1900’s, when it moved from downtown, to expand for future education and research.

      Chris, The UW has made significant investments in student housing, for Undergraduate students, Graduate students and Family housing. Most of this investment has been in West Campus. They have added a significant number of new housing units. Using University land, dedicated for education should not be used for non-University housing.

      1. UW has certainly done many good things. I like their long term plan. We are just arguing that they can do even better.

      2. The UW’s stadium renovation could have:
        1) Put more every-day people-concentrating uses around the stadium, without detracting from its historic shape and ambience.
        2) Converted the stadium into offices or something while preserving its external facade.

        It’s great that the UW is planning college buildings further north in the Montlake lot, but those are a longer walk from the station. A light rail station should have a dense station area around it so that more people who want to live and go to areas with adjacent high-capacity transit can do so.

      3. If you did a poll of every single UW student, undergraduate, masters, doctoral, traditional, continuing education, and part-time, of how many Husky football games they attend per year, I believe that you would find that a very small percentage of UW students actually have the time and/or means to purchase tickets or attend games. How well does this actually serve the students that the institution intends to educate?

      4. A college football schedule isn’t regular use.

        Notre Dame just bolted 3 academic buildings on to the ND stadium. The campus architect and president were both very explicit in saying they wanted to better incorporate the stadium into everyday campus life.

      5. Mike Orr:

        “The UW’s stadium renovation could have:
        1) Put more every-day people-concentrating uses around the stadium, without detracting from its historic shape and ambience.
        2) Converted the stadium into offices or something while preserving its external facade.”

        1) It did. There is a UW medicine clinic there among other uses
        2) It did. It relocated most of the athletic department offices there.

      6. Mike, The new Computer Science building will be 200 yards North of the light rail stop, very manageable for 19-24 year olds to walk.

        Engineer, You must not be a UW educated Engineer, as that would require research. The UW athletics tickets are significantly reduced for students, grad students, etc. They are less than a movie ticket price. I believe they are $10/game for football season. Alums and the General Public pay approximately $70/game or higher.

      7. From a current UW student: single game student football tickets are $20/game or $135 for the season

  4. The urbanism argument holds some weight but ignores the fact that KeyArena is city property, and as such, is a public asset that generates tax revenue. Even if we could be assured that replacement private housing would generate as much (if not more) revenue, there’s always a debate to be had when selling valuable public parcels to private parties. I’m not convinced that housing on the grounds of Seattle Center is necessarily a good idea, though upzoning LQA itself should be considered as absolutely necessary (the Uptown HALA map isn’t out yet, natch). It’s a historical cultural space that houses many of our most beloved public institutions and is a key destination for tourists and residents alike.

    If the Key is torn down, which I don’t necessarily oppose on its own, I would want the city to ensure that the underlying parcels continue to be public properties.

      1. A good model to be sure, but whether or not the land should be re-purposed for housing requires a robust debate.

    1. The city has other goals besides just maximizing revenue. One of them is to address the housing shortage. Another is to allow more people to live adjacent to high-capacity transit and walkable retail and parks so that they’ll drive less and pollute the atmosphere less. These goals may suggest replacing a revenue-generating stadium with a non-revenue-generating other thing that serves other goals. The city’s purpose is not to make a profit but to provide municipal services to its residents.

      I also have reservations about turning part of the Center into housing. But it all depends on the details and we can consider alternatives. The arena is not part of the park in the sense that people go into it all day every day; it’s a reserved space that people go into only for occasional events, and the rest of the time they have to walk around it. It would be possible for a housing cluster to have a well-designed east and south sides (facing the park) that give it a natural park atmosphere, and perhaps don’t give the appearance of dozens of windows of rich residents overlooking the park dwellers. We can at least give the designers and artists space to make proposals, and then we can evaluate the proposals and decide what the park users need in the adjacent housing interface.

  5. Seattle Center should be an amazing civic space but is underutilized as a whole. It needs a holistic urban design which a vision for making it a regional venue for all manner of arts, culture and events, with additional linkages to regional transit and local connections.

    Seattle Center actually sponsored an Ideas competition about 4 years ago to address this, although nothing has happened since to my knowledge.

    It should not be housing.

    1. The Center has been renovating itself over the past two decades. New buildings and structures have been built, the Armory has been remodeled and renamed, the Chihuly glass exhibit came in. It already is “a regional venue for all manner of arts, culture and events”. What do you think Bumbershoot and Folklife and the Bite and Festal are, and the Children’s Theater and the ballet and this and that? There’s a limit to how much more can be added and still keep capacity for occasional huge events and the everyday park-like outdoors. What specifically do you want to see added or changed? And what’s wrong with having some arts in other places, such as the Symphony downtown and the concentration of play theaters downtown?

    2. Seattle Center is an amazing public space. The Arts and Sciences, museums, the Childrens activities, etc. The Center is fantastic. Memorial Stadium is a Seattle Public Schools property.

  6. Zach,

    I think you make a great argument in favor of SoDo as a location for a new arena, but I wouldn’t support eliminating the Key Arena because I think the city can support multiple arenas. I certainly wouldn’t build a new one at the Seattle Center, but since it already exists, let’s keep it as a public asset. If the SoDo arena takes away all the activity & the Key Arena is losing gobs of public money just trying to stay open, then sure tear it down. But i think it can remain active & successful.

    Having multiple arenas makes for a more active city. More venues = more events. Removing the key arena would give Chris Hansen a monopoly on arena events. Concert organizers & Seattle U’s atheltic departments will strongly oppose this.

    Assuming Hansen’s arena is built, I bet Hansen immediately starts lobbying for the key arena to be torn down using exactly these arguments (which doesn’t say they aren’t valid). Right now, the existence of Key Arena as a true alternative to host an NBA team is what is ensuring Hansen promises lots of public benefits like Lander St.

    1. With the massive population growth we will be getting by 2040—800,000?, we will be able to support a big arena for professional sports and big events and a smaller facility for smaller entertainment acts and smaller sporting events. it doesn’t have to be either or, particularly with one party offering to pay the entire freight for the big arena.

    2. Your argument assumes Key Arena is fit to hold events now and in the future but it is woefully inadequate. Major artists routinely choose the Tacoma Dome over Key for their events and in my opinion, the amount of investment it would take to turn it around isn’t worth the time.

      1. They choose the Tacoma Dome because it’s larger, and the acts that used to fit in the Kingdome can’t fit in the current entertainment spaces.

      2. That’s where SODO arena comes in as a potentially great building to attract the bigger artists, particularly with a better load capacity which the presently constituted Key lacks.

        The smaller ones, and there are plenty of them, can potentially play a refurbished Key.

      3. We never should have taken down the Kingdome. One, gigantic, multipurpose building, publicly owned, for all kinds of events. Luxury box sizes are not a good enough reason to replace something like that.

  7. How much of this new housing site will be reserved low/middle income housing (as opposed to the HALA buyouts)?

    (and how much will the City Council demand vs. what you think is ideal)

    1. I would think that’s pretty flexible. Both the extreme of all private housing and the extreme of all public housing would activate the neighborhood in their own way, and each would add needed housing to the city at a useful area for housing. Of course anything in between would work as well.

    2. For a large block of land like this, something like the new Yessler Terrace is probably a good starting point

    3. The housing authority and city leaders are against large single-income complexes nowadays, so Yesler Terrace’s mixed-income plan is a good model. The housing shortage is at all levels of the economic spectrum, so no matter what level(s) the complex is it will significantly help real housing needs. But please not lots of townhouses: those belong on single-family blocks, not displacing denser infill development.

  8. There are numerous different arguments in this article that should be separated:
    1) If Hansen builds the Sodo Arena, we should tear down Key Arena. To me, this is indisputable
    2) If we tear it down, we should replace it with housing. As someone who would much prefer housing to parks, especially near transit, I heartily endorse this sentiment.
    3) From a transit/land use perspective, Sodo is a better location for an arena than LQA. Here’s where I disagree.

    Good neighborhoods have a variety of uses. An arena is basically a nightlife destination. Between the NBA, possibly the NHL, the Storm, SU Basketball, roller derby, concerts and festivals, this might be over 100 nights a year bringing (usually) large volumes of people into the neighborhood. This well exceeds the yield of nightclubs, churches, and numerous other things that keep things lively.

    1. Will the light rail station in the new tunnel be close enough to the convention center for the Key to be used for things like opening/closing ceremonies, etc. for large conventions? It seems like having an easy way for the masses to travel between the two could result in some nice synergies if done right.

      1. Glenn, assuming it gets built and the preliminary presentation has the location of the new platform so Far East for a reason, then very possibly it would be. If you look back at the posts from last Spring, you’ll see that the new platform and a small mezzanine are to lie between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, deeper than the existing cut-and-cover, rising tunnel under Pine Street.

        The question that the schematic did not answer is whether the connections between the existing platforms and the new mini-mezzanine will be the only access to that mezzanine or whether it will have its own connection(s) to the surface. If the latter, at least one should be only a half block from the corner of the Convention Center. That may be the reason for the pictured deviation fron Fifth Avenue.

      2. Arrgh! iPad auto-correct strikes again! The new platform will be built in Seattle, not the Far East……

    2. I agree, the arguments got lumped together. I completely agree with the first two points. I disagree with the third, but for a different reason. From a transportation standpoint, SoDo is better. You get a higher percentage of people using transit. Coming from the south, you can park and ride in Tukwila (and now Angle Lake). This provides a fairly fast express to the game. Closer in there are a fair number of buses that use the SoDo busway, and more would if you had all the events that could easily occur there (I put the number at close to 130 not counting concerts). As ST2 gets built out, it becomes a great choice from the northeast end. Rather than slog through downtown, you ride Link. The folks that are probably better off driving are those that use the new SR 99 tunnel. It won’t be great for people driving from Ballard (no Western on-ramp) but neither are the transit options. Of course if ST3 passes, then at least folks from Ballard and Magnolia have a decent way to get there (but those along the Aurora corridor don’t). From the east side, transit remains a pretty solid alternative. Either a bus to East Link or a bus to Husky Stadium would likely save some time. At worse you use the parking lot at East Bellevue.

      With Queen Anne it isn’t that bad either. Even without ST3 you have plenty of buses and the monorail (which hopefully will support ORCA before 2050). But I still see more drivers. There are plenty of people who would slog their way along 15th, Aurora, or I-5. If you are way out there (Lynnwood) then you probably take Link either way, but if you are a bit closer (e. g. North of the ship canal but in the city) but not close to Link, then driving is a decent option. The same is true for the south end, it’s just that there are a lot fewer people fitting that definition. Meanwhile, folks are more likely to slog along 520 to the game. It isn’t as far of a drive (you get off at Mercer, not at the other end of downtown) and transit would require a three seat ride (even if the last two are trains).

      I would say the biggest argument for the Seattle Center is that it would likely have more people walking to the game. Population density is very high around there, and it makes sense that some of the fans would walk. I’m not convinced that is a big enough argument for the arena though. You are still talking maybe 10 to 20% (if that) of the attendees, unlike Husky Stadium, where a large percentage of the fans walk to the game.

    3. This article is an excellent idea. At first I thought it was about eliminating the stadium and not building another stadium, and that gave me pause because I’m not sure we should demolish the Coliseum without a replacement stadium. But the idea of a stadium in SODO and housing in a corner of the Center has a lot of appeal. There is a tradeoff between the pedestrian-unfriendliness of a stadium that’s only used a few times a month (Martin’s point) vs the lack of walkable ancillary destinations in SODO (RossB’s point) — but this is a tradeoff we’ll have to weigh. At this moment I lean toward the “dump the stadium in the industrial district” argument, because it gets a large one-story structure out of the neighborhoods, people only go to it a few times a year, the lack of surrounding retail is tolerable during those occasional visits (and is traditional), and SODO already has wide streets for its daytime trucks and a freeway entrance and a light rail station, so it can better handle tens of thousands of people coming and going to a stadium event simultaneously. It’s not great access because every game throws the 131/132 off schedule and slows I-5 to a crawl, but it’s better access than the Mercer Mess or the Husky Stadium bottleneck.

  9. I agree completely. I would also add here folks that when we have other priorities for taxdollars (e.g. light rail expansion and yes, public education) – new sports facilities should not even be on the list.

    It’s beyond time for Key Arena to go and for the private sector to build up a new arena in SoDo. Close to an existing light rail station. #JustBuild

  10. Downtown Seattle Needs more parks and open space.
    The Seattle Center needs more open space.
    Upzone LQA first. There are single Family Houses within 3 bocks of the arena.

    1. Fil,

      What in the world for?
      Seattle Center is 74 acres of open space.

      Seattle Center needs the monorail to accept Orca.
      Seattle Center needs the school district to actually do something with memorial stadium.
      Seattle Center needs more people walking around at all hours of the day.

      Arguably, Seattle Center could use some of its current open space to be covered, so that it was usable from Nov – May.

      Not seeing any circumstances where Seattle Center needs more open space.

      1. I’m not seeing any circumstances where seattle center needs less open space. There are many other places to build housing than in the seattle center. I agree with all of your other comments. Build more Housing around seattle center.

      2. Fil,

        Key Arena is currently a large, mostly locked up building.
        Its not open space.

        Building something useful in its current location would not change Seattle Centers open space quota.

      3. How much open space is enough?

        KeyArena is not open space. It’s a large building that people go inside only a few times a month. The area around it is a small amount of open space, mostly dead, because it’s oddly-shaped unpleasant concrete — the pedestrian equivalent of a freeway entrance ramp that leaves unusable triangular spaces around it. The “open space” that people most like is gathering spaces, like the International Fountain. The spaces around KeyArena aren’t like that. They won’t be remodeled like that.

  11. When I lived in Oslo, my grocery store was inside the soccer stadium (Ullevål).

    I think part of a complete city includes spaces like arenas and they’re made better when part of a walkable mixed-use neighborhood.

  12. I would suggest that the site would be a more strategic high-rise hotel and convention center than it would be as housing if ST3 passes. The combination of the Space Needle, museums, nearby corporate headquarters and a signature view would make it a top attraction.

    Then, other hotel sites could be freed for housing. Hotels have to go somewhere!

    1. I would even speculate that the footprint of a 20-story hotel here would create lots more transit trips per square foot than a 20-story condo or apartment tower would.

      I also wonder why there aren’t more hotels near the stadiums now. There are only a handful. Hotels near attractions help to dissipate crowd surges as do restaurants (something good about the Key Arena site today).

    2. There’s a convention center a mile away that’s about to double in size, and is closer to the city center and lots of hotels retail and the transit hub of the city. If people want a view they can go to Kerry Park, the Smith Tower, the Space Needle, or Columbia Center, or they can drive to the Newport Hills golf course.

      1. But would this doubled in size convention center be large enough to host a National Presidential Convention? Would it be as good as SODO for such a purpose. Or would a bigger convention center be merely more capable of hosting multiple TED talks and corporate networking grift shows?

      2. The Seattle is big enough to have more first-class hotels than those near the WSCC. Many Atlanta first-class hotels are not next to the Georgia World Congress Center, Many of Boston first-class hotels are not next to Hynes. Most Chicago first-class hotels are not near McCormick Place. Most San Francisco first-class hotels are not next to Moscone Center. Seattle is not like Boise or Spokane or even Portland. We’re a big city. It’s okay to have major hotels away from public convention centers.

        Conferences are held at hotels all the time. It doesn’t have to be a state-sponsored facility. I’ve been to many conferences that were held in hotels at private conference or convention centers — more in those places than in public convention center buildings. Even in Seattle, I’ve been to functions within hotels.

        Frankly, the WSCC needs to expand no matter what. The number of conferences that I have attended there have been severely space-constrained. It’s rather embarrassing for a metro area as big as Seattle to have such a tiny facility. Further, all most all of the land within a few blocks of WSCC is already taken by a high-rise building so that finding land for a new major hotels is not going to be easy.

        I’m simply suggesting that this would be a more strategic use for this site than housing. Hotels are going up in places other than our Downtown core and this will continue to happen. There are many corporate headquarters at or north of Denny Street already, and many more office towers are in various stages of development.

        There are many great places for high-density housing all over Seattle near ST2 Link stations with more locations if ST3 passes. Hundreds if not thousands of apartments are in stages of development in the MLK corridor now. Capitol Hill has the same thing happening. There are plenty of other sites that are ripe for dense housing coming on line — from Northgate to Yesler Terrace to Mt. Baker to Judkins Park. None of those locations offer the museums, attractions and proximity to offices like Seattle Center does.

        So if Seattle needs to plan for 10,000 more rooms in 25-30 more hotels, where do you think they should all go?

  13. I agree with your idea, Zach, but you lost me at your last paragraph.

    >> Sodo will never be good for dense housing, but LQA will.

    Well, lower Queen Anne already has dense housing (one of the most densely populated parts of the city) but whatever. Why couldn’t SoDo have dense housing? The main thing holding it back is zoning. Basically we only allow industrial uses. If we changed the zoning, there would be huge office towers as well as big apartment buildings.

    >> LQA will never be good for SOV access, but Sodo will.

    What? LQA is just fine for driving — you have pretty quick access via 99, I-5, 15th. You can park a few blocks away, and feel quite comfortable leaving your car on the street. There are a nice variety of restaurants that tend to be cheaper and more varied than the ones around that part of SoDo (which would become “the stadium district”).

    >> And while Sodo is less transit-accessible than LQA will be,

    Again, What??? SoDo has a rail station. From the north end (UW, Capitol Hill, Northgate) it is about the same amount amount of time to get to SoDo as it is (or would be) to get to Lower Queen Anne (no transfer). For the east side it is faster. For the south end it is much faster. It is also a major busway, serving people from all over the south end.

    But more importantly, public transportation has a clear advantage for almost everyone with SoDo, while lots of people will slog their way to the game at the Center. If you have a race between public transit and driving, the transit riders win the race to SoDo more than they win it to the Seattle Center (

    But that is why it makes sense to build the stadium in SoDo. There may be lots of people who visit their friend in Lower Queen Anne, but not nearly as many as attend an event. Anywhere to anywhere transit is great, but we don’t really have that (and won’t have that with ST3). If we were building the Metro 8 and WSTT I would feel differently. But if we have to choose a place that makes sense for access from all over the place, then SoDo is a better choice.

    1. Less transit accessible in that the new arena would be at Holgate, halfway between the two Link stations and a longish walk.

      SOV access for a 20,000 person event, in which Mercer and Denny are hopelessly overloaded.

    2. Lower Queen Anne does have dense housing, but I think Zach is envisioning midrise towers. (Of course, how will that get past the NIMBYs when it failed in Mt Baker and Roosevelt, and the city’s largest park is adjacent.)

      Allowing housing in SODO would lose the city’s industrial land forever. Other cities have done this (Vancouver, San Francisco) but it’s un-diversifying the economy and making it more vulnerable to shocks, and we may need local manufacturing capacity or agriculture in the future. The cities with the strongest argument for converting industrial land had abandoned obsolete factories that couldn’t be reused for something else. SODO and Interbay aren’t like that: they have viable businesses running. Rainier abandoned its plant and it’s now reused for local businesses (there’s a BJJ school there). SODO is a major trade hub and import/export companies need warehouse space. If you allow housing, it will immediately raise the land price beyond what industrial companies can pay, because rich condo-dwellers will pay much higher. That will force the companies to relocate to Kent or Issaquah or Bothell or Auburn. All of these are much less transit-accessible for their workers, and a long commute for those who live in Seattle. (Should they all move to Issaquah? Well, there’s people for your Issaquah urban center and light rail station.) So allowing housing will force the industries out even if they’re allowed to stay. That might be good for cities with obsolete, un-reusable factory buildings, but it’s not necessarily a wise idea for Seattle.

  14. The Key Arean is just miserable, there’s really no use in saving it as an event venue. The only thing it had going for it was its location, but with a new area in SODO, plus the suburban venues, it will surly become obsolete. One of Seattle’s biggest urban planning failures (and there are many) is the lack of parks and open space. Even Seattle Center, which is supposedly a park, is mostly buildings with ticketed attractions. The urban parks in Tacoma and Bellevue put Seattle to shame. It would be incredible if the Key was demolished but the concrete arches that define the building were to remain. An open lawn, vertical garden, ball fields, or sculpture park could fill the remaining volume. That could create an iconic public space in a city that so desparalty needs it, while preserving the most aestectically significant piece of the building. Housing is very important, but that land is zoned for public usage and it should remain so.

    1. What? Seattle’s got plenty of open space! Look at the Arboretum, Seward Park, the West Seattle Greenbelt, Volunteer Park, Discovery Park, the Queen Anne Greenbelt, Golden Gardens, Green Lake, Woodland Park… and those’re just the ones I can list right off the top of my head!

      1. Seattle has many beautiful parks, but not nearly enough in the urban villages of the city. Most of the parks you listed are located near a natural feature. City parks, however, like Cal Anderson, are seriously lacking in Seattle. But the true focus of my comment was on what should become of the Seattle Center, how it can be the large urban park the city is starved for. Turning a basketball arena into a modernist architectural skeleton would be a fine use of the land.

        Also, turning SODO into a year round sports and entertainment destination, with 5 (?) professional teams and major concert venues concentrated in a neighborhood with an exsisting light rail connection is a no brainer. While other cities send the stadiums to the burbs, we play ball in town.

    2. Seattle has lots of parks and several of them are large, it’s just that they’re at the periphery of the city rather than in the center. And they should have more frequent transit to them so that people can get there without driving. But they’re there.

      As for insufficient open space, as I asked earlier, how much is enough?

      1. What is a “large urban park”? Any sufficiently large park becomes peripheral to urban activity. Urban parks are active places. Make them big enough; they’ll be empty and the void discourages most users.

        Seattle Center works well for large events. But, central as it is, it is still an over-sized discouraging space at other times.

  15. In terms of an arena their is 300 million city owned and operate or free. In terms of indoor space the new convention center, old convention center, and the event center which will be over the new light rail 20 years before key arena and ST3 are complete. The only real question is what do do with a large vacant space. The city is green space deficient rip out the arena a build large Downtown/LQA park That will attract visitor and maybe carve out a small section for the ST3 station going in to help save on property acquisition cost

  16. “Husky Stadium is used less than 10 times per year”

    While I agree it may be under utilized, that statement is hogwash. (What are you? The Seattle Times?) Time for a retraction.

    It is home to the Univ. of Washington Sports Medicine Clinic – so it is used every business day for that purpose. There are more than 10 business days in a year.

    It is home to UW Football Operations – again, every business day for that purpose with scores of staff and employees.

    It is home to the UW Football training and rehabilitation facilities. This time used more than every business day.

    The field is used for football and band practice scores of times a year.

    Parts of the building are used for fund raising purposes all the time.

    The Stadium contains media facilities that are used more than 10 times a year.

    I am sure I am forgetting a few dozen other uses.

    Either way, the stadium was constructed in 1920 100% financed by the students. Every upgrade thereafter has been internally paid for by the athletic program via donations and bonds on future football proceeds. Of all the terrible, inefficient uses of space in this city, why pick on one that is self reliant and holds such tremendous public support?

    So, Martin doesnt like football. Blethen doesnt like transit. Neither of those two should allow their personal grudges to spill into their media.

    1. For the record, when I wrote that article in 2009 I was very much a Seahawks fan, watching nearly every game on TV and attending a game every couple of years. My wife’s Husky fandom has waned, but earlier in the century I went to a couple of Husky games a year with her every year.

      1. Fair enough.

        Then why insert a highly inaccurate snipe at Husky Stadium in an article that is not at all about Husky Stadium?

        Since adding the offices and medical clinic, there are way over a hundred full time, year round employees at that site. Again, not the most efficient use of school space but certainly not the least.

        It falls in the same civic benefit as parks. If a park’s use were similarly inefficient I cannot imagine the same snotty tone about that park’s continued existence (especially when the article were about a different park entirely).

        Either way, that fact your site proffered, namely utilization merely ten times a year, is inaccurate. 30K sqft of sports medicine clinic and offices at the Sports Medicine Center (formerly located across the street in the Medical Center).

        Key Arena is doomed. It will never attract top sports teams (both the NBA and NHL made that clear). That argument is persuasive. Leave Husky Stadium out of it.

  17. Portland seems to do well with two arenas, the Moda Center and the Veterans Memorial Arena, and they’re a smaller metro area than Seattle.

    If housing were to be built on the Key Arena it should be low to mid income housing.

    1. There are times when there are events that are not worthwhile opening the Moda Center. Winterhawks hokey is split between the two as some games just don’t draw enough people for the big arena.

      All the same, there is some noise that Memorial Coliseum should be torn down as it doesn’t get used that much any more. There is some return noise that it would be used more if the Trailblazers weren’t in charge of scheduling for both, so they have some financial advantage for scheduling as much stuff in the Moda Center as possible.

  18. I agree that the city should have two stadiums. Vancouver built a new downtown stadium 20 or so years ago. Yet they kept Pacific Coliseum at the PNE. And it’s still used.

  19. I do agree that the Key’s time has past as a major arena, the NBA has stated repeatedly that they will not even consider it and the NHL has said it will consider it on temporary basis while another arena is being built. I don’t agree with tearing it down and turning it into housing. The Center sounds it on 3 sides, is active and crowded and almost every 3 day weekend and has activities, crowds and noise late into the night on several occasions. Also I suspect that there would be fight about a land mark status since its been a part of the skyline for over 50 years and is a holdover from the World’s Fair.

    I personally think that putting the light rail station under it would be a great use, no need to purchase land, it’s centrally located in Uptown, would serve the Center well and its already dug out pretty deep. Then rebuild the main floor on top of it, and you can use it as a smaller 8-10k seat arena to replace the old Mercer Arena for WNBA, SU and high school games, or into conference/event space or a mix of museum, gallery, event, arts and activity space. Put it to a use that supports the Center’s mission rather then one fits poorly with it

  20. Key Arena is not going to be torn down and replaced with housing. Ditto for Husky Stadium. Let’s talk about something that actually has a greater than zero chance of happening.

    Hansen’s arena proposal is the one we should be focusing on. It is the right facility in the right location. Key Arena is not.

    if Chris’s new arena gets built, then the proper thing to do with KeyArena would be to downsize it so it doesn’t compete directly with the other stadiums. And barring that, then just tear it down and replace it with open space.

  21. The author of this article is woefully mistaken on the utilization of Key Arena. Not only does it play host to the Storm and dozens of concerts a year, it also hosts Seattle University basketball, Two weeks solid of graduation events, DOTA 2 International gaming competition (3 WEEKS counting load in and out!), Rehearsal days for tours starting out in Seattle (appears dark to public but rent is paid for this!), and numerous private events. There is hardly a true dark day in that facility.

    Since the Sonics left, the Key has been running financially in the black. In fact, profits are up considerably these days for the city. Yes, the city actually brings in revenue from it!

    The arena is in need of some technical upgrades (The #1 complaint about the venue from rock tours is the loading dock arrangement), but generally speaking, it’s doing just fine as it is.

    1. If another arena is built for the NBA in SoDo, how much of that stays at the Key?

      1. Depends on if SoDo fills up its winter schedule with pro hockey and basketball. Regardless, most concerts will probably move to SoDo, but things like graduations will stay at Key due to price. Would be interesting if the Storm or SU are willing to pay more to play in SoDo

      2. SoDo would also absorb much of the activity at Tacoma Dome …. Should probably tear down Tacoma dome too, then, eh, and replace it with better tod?

  22. No. You are wrong. The key arena is in constant use, along with the rest of the Seattle Center. I work in the neighborhood… If there isn’t something listed on the public calendar, it’s either a private event or advertised elsewhere.

    Sports is just part of what goes on there. It’s a high profile event space that anyone can rent out. Did you know they host the international DOTA championship there? There is an enormous amount of stuff happening in the Seattle Center, and it will only get busier as more people move into the city.

    It’s not an accident ST3 is putting subway stations on both sides of the center… or an accident the monorail runs there. Or that the rapid ride line D makes a detour to run alongside key arena.

    Also, if you demolish the key arena, you are also demolishing the vera project, the SIFF film center, and a part of the public space of the Seattle Center.

    I think upzones in the rest of the neighborhood are a good idea though. It does have decent transit access already and will get more.

    1. Light rail, as well as the busway, are already in SoDo, so if that arena gets built there would be no need to wait for ST3.

  23. I guess the thing that sticks out to me is the sheer amount of surface parking there is just in that highly prized real estate market in LQA. It’s not vast acres of continuous parking like SouthCenter Mall or anything, but it still easily equal to the surface area of Key Arena. You wouldn’t have to demolish anything to get housing on those lots.

  24. Hansen’s SODO arena site is also convenient for out-of-towners, thanks to Greyhound’s new (2014) station that’s right beside the Link/Stadium stop & the Amtrak station a walkable distance north. I live in Bellingham & have taken Amtrak and Greyhound down to a few Mariners & Seahawks games, as do quite a few others in this area.

  25. Do you mean, turn the land over to private developers? I’m not sure running public housing is one of Seattle’s core competencies.

    If private development, shall we use highest bidder or other criteria, and if the the latter, are we happy with elected officials designing meaningful and workable criteria? A look at current rent controlled housing is warranted. Should we rather trust those in the business of building, renting and selling housing to create something pleasing and sustainable?

    I’m curious to see the idea further developed.

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