Seattle Arena: City Council Votes Down Street Vacation Needed For NBA/NHL Arena

Xander Deccio

Seattle's hopes of building an arena to lure the NBA back to the city hit a snag on Monday evening.

The Seattle city council voted against giving a street vacation in order to build the new Seattle Arena in order to lure both NBA and NHL teams. The council voted 4-5, defeating the measure that would've made the new Seattle Arena shovel-ready in hopes to lure an NBA or NHL franchise in the near future.

The street in question is Occidental Ave., located near the Port of Seattle, in the historic SODO district. The vote in question was whether to give investor Chris Hansen the right to buy and vacate one block of Occidental. Vacating the street was the last major hurdle in order for Hansen to obtain a master use permit in hopes of breaking ground on the new arena before a memorandum of understanding allowing $200 million in public funds for the project expires in late 2017.

According to KING5 News, "Council President Bruce Harrell voted yes along with council members Tim Burgess, Rob Johnson, and Mike O' Brien. While council members Sally Bagshaw, Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez, and Kshama Sawant voted no."

Councilwoman Gonzalez provided the final vote, in which she voted against the measure because she had a "profound and deep struggle" towards selling the street to project manager and potential arena owner Chris Hansen.

Many of the council members had issues with the effect it would have on jobs near the Port of Seattle. Though a time-lapse video posted by the creators of SonicsGate website filmed from a rooftop facing Occidental showed that not much traffic comes through that area and that claims of use of the street during port shipping use were false. This also came after one of the biggest cargo freights docked in the Port of Seattle.

"The three-term council member Bagshaw has drawn the ire of arena supporters for her perceived 'flip-flop' on the project. She approved the arena MOU in 2012 and even attended a party with Hansen to celebrate the approval immediately after. However, in recent weeks she has been the leader of the opposition, writing in her blog post, 'I cannot fathom why we are offering up this street vacation at this point.' Herbold co-signed an op-ed with Bagshaw in the West Seattle Herald signaling she would also vote no."

Before the vacation vote, the city council voted an amendment brought on by councilwoman Bagshaw that would only allow the vacation if an NBA team could be secured. That motion was defeated in a vote 3-6. That would have meant Hansen could break ground on the Seattle Arena without securing an NBA team.

Monday's vote further adds to the woes of the Seattle Arena project coming to fruition, as many of the arena's detractors, including the Seattle Mariners, who are are against the arena as it would butt up against the parking garage at Safeco Field. Others have been against the arena, as many believe it would cause further traffic problems. Port Commissioner Fred Felleman testified before Monday's vote that he felt it would send a message that Seattle supports gentrification in the SODO district.

Many detractors of the Seattle Arena have asked for KeyArena, the Supersonics former home, to be remodeled. But due to an agreement with Hansen, a remodel is not possible if a future NBA team is indeed brought to Seattle, as they would be playing in the venue while the new arena is being built.

Investor Chris Hansen commented on the city council vote by posting the following message on the official Sonics Arena web site.

"Today's City Council vote was disappointing but we don't believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We know all the fans who have stood solidly by us these past years share our disappointment but it is important that we all stay focused on our shared goal.

"We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council's concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted."

"We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council's concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted."

[Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP Images]