KeyArena Expansion Plan

Seattle officials are working with the state legislature to secure funds for a proposed $205 million renovation to the KeyArena at the Seattle Center.

House Bill 2209, introduced February 23rd, will extend the local tax on hotels, restaurants and car rentals, along with a portion of the general tax, past 2020.

The money is currently being used for construction costs at Safeco and Qwest fields as well as the arts and tourism. From 2012 to 2020, the funds will be designated for stadium use.

Seattle Center spokesman Perry Cooper said revenue at KeyArena, which is home to the Seattle Supersonics, has dropped in recent years due to increased competition and other factors affecting the economy.

However, he said asking the state for help is one step in a concept plan already in place to increase revenue.

“The idea in ’95 when we put the package together for KeyArena was that we did not want to raise any taxes. So what we did was borrow bonds that were going to be paid off yearly by the money that the arena generated from year to year,” Cooper told Pollstar. “Essentially, that plan’s not working for us anymore.

“Just like any business would stand back and reassess their business plan, that’s what we’ve tried to do here with the Sonics.”

The renovation includes expanding the arena from 368,000 square feet to 730,000 square feet, adding a 5,000- to 7,000-capacity theatre, 500 more seats and converting 26 of 58 luxury suites to loge boxes, terrace tables and party suites.

“When KeyArena was built, we were the only ones that had suites. Now, you’ve got two new buildings on line — and in a smaller sense the Everett Events Center — and now there’s triple the amount of suites that are out there,” Cooper explained. “If you look at Safeco Field, these kinds of seating areas where you can eat and dine and enjoy friends in a more open atmosphere and still see a ball game is a real key element for Safeco.

“That’s what [city and Supersonics officials] are looking for. They’re looking to try and improve the experience from more than just a game.”

The building is also looking to provide an incentive for the Sonics to stay when their contract expires in 2010.

Once the funding is approved, Cooper said the renovation could be completed in 18 months. Right now, it’s just a matter of time.

“This is the first time the concept plan has been brought to the state legislature. I think both the city and the Sonics have recognized this is something they’re going to need the state’s help with,” Cooper said.

“We’re pretty much at the point where we’re waiting to see the reactions that come from the legislature in Olympia, and then make the next step after that.”