KeyArena Defies Odds

Seattle’s  continues bucking the conventional wisdom that arena success depends on a pro sports anchor tenant. 

Not only is it making a go of it after the loss of the former NBA SuperSonics, it made $1.2 million in profit last year, according to the Seattle Times.

Not only has the arena become profitable after losing money in the last years of the Sonics’ tenancy, in Kansas City, Mo., that have thrived even without anchor tenants – thanks, primarily, to booking more concerts. And it is doing it despite its age.

KeyArena recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first concert – The Beatles in 1964. It opened as the Seattle Center Coliseum two years earlier. Yet in 2010 – the first full year without the Sonics – the building generated $19,225 in net profit, according to the Times.

Even that modest total was cause for celebration. The arena’s net loss in 2005 was more than $1.5 million. KeyArena’s net profit has increased yearly since the Sonics left. The venue had the busiest month in its history in December when 108,196 guests reportedly passed the turnstyles.

The 15,500-capacity KeyArena still has the WNBA Storm and a college basketball team providing a sports calendar, but without the NBA monopolizing prime fall and winter calendar dates, more concerts – and more income from rental and other fees – are coming to the venue.

It also has a partner with experience managing an anchorless building in AEG Facilities, which also operates the Sprint Center. And it helps that KeyArena doesn’t have to compete with a shiny, new building as is the case in some other cities. Not that the potential isn’t lurking – venture capitalist Chris Hansen submitted designs on a new arena as part of his failed bid to acquire the Sacramento Kings two years ago.