Friday, September 14, 2012

Seattle City Council Approves Arena Deal

A sports arena proposal that the Port of Seattle has repeatedly warned could have a negative effect on area maritime transportation businesses, has apparently won approval by the Seattle City Council.

On Sept. 11, the Council announced it had reached a tentative agreement with developer Chris Hansen to build a $490 million basketball and hockey arena in the city’s SoDo industrial area.

The deal, which was approved by the King County Council earlier this year, still faces a formal Council vote, which could come later this month. Increasing its chances of approval is a recent revision to the plan that includes a $40 million road improvement fund.

Container operations, railway lines and truck activity are all currently located within blocks of the proposed arena site, and multiple Port of Seattle studies have determined that traffic congestion and pressure on industrial businesses brought by a sports facility near the waterfront could squeeze out small businesses, disrupt port operations and limit the potential for port growth.

During an Aug. 7 panel discussion at the port, three experts noted several key issues that must be addressed regarding the proposed arena, including how port terminal operations are significantly impacted on game days because game traffic makes reaching terminals difficult for trucks.

Also according to the panel, congestion increases transit time and costs and makes the gateway less attractive for customers, therefore, SoDo’s well-documented traffic management issues could theoretically worsen the situation.

However, the $40 million road improvement fund, which would be covered by tax revenues, would go toward the study and prioritization of area transportation improvements. The city has also said that additional funds might be secured from the port and federal government.

The port released a statement the same day the potential deal was announced, saying it was not yet ready to endorse the plan.

“We will carefully review this proposal to ensure it addresses the traffic and environmental risks the Commission found in the initial proposal,” the port said in its statement. “Failure to adequately address those issues and fully review alternative sites could jeopardize the marine operations that support more than 30,000 jobs in our region and generate $3 billion in revenue each year and would weaken the port’s ability to create jobs and strengthen our maritime-industrial community.”