A group trying to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle led by Chris Hansen reached a “major milestone” on Thursday with the release of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Hansen called it “a green light for us to continue moving forward,” but his goal of building an arena in the SoDo neighborhood might still face some significant roadblocks. Notably, it sounds like the city might not go forward with its earlier pledge to provide $125 million in bonds to help fund the arena.
“This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” said Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council, according to the Seattle Times. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”
The problem is that when the city agreed to partially fund the arena, it was with the idea of drawing in an NBA team. However, because there are no NBA expansion plans right now, the focus has shifted to trying to lure an NHL team first. Seattle mayor Ed Murray has already said that he’s willing to listen to reconsider the memorandum of understanding if an NHL-first proposal comes forward, but Burgess seems less optimistic about the City Council agreeing to such a change.
“We specifically wrote the idea of a hockey-only or hockey-first arena out of the agreement three years ago,” Burgess said. “We did that because it’s very weak financially. It’s just too risky for the city.”
He added, “If we’re going to do hockey, there would have to be a substantial lowering, if not elimination, of the public investment.”
The fact that there’s now a competing project in nearby Tukwila might also be a factor. That arena would reportedly be constructed using only private funds, so it might be seen as a more favorable option to some on the City Council for that reason.