Seattle Center Coliseum Renovation Plans Go In Two Directions

Oak View Group's proposal maintains the iconic Paul Thiry roof.

The City of Seattle put out a Request for Proposals (RFPs) to renovate Seattle Center Coliseum (better known as KeyArena despite the bank’s lapse in paying naming rights loyalties) on January 11th. Two proposals emerged and yesterday the Seattle City Council got an update on the plans at a Select Committee On Civic Arenas meeting (video here).

The existing coliseum is about 380,000 square feet. The two proposals would both use 100% private funding to nearly double the square footage–while also preserving the Paul Thiry-designed roof–to bring the renovated arena up to the standards of the modern NBA and NHL. And, as Councilmember Debora Juarez was quick to point out, that’s capacity from which the existing anchor tenant, the Seattle Storm WNBA team, could benefit. Mayor Ed Murray expressed excitement in a press release last Wednesday, even integrating a hashtag into his statement.

“Today is an important day in our goal of bringing the Sonics home and the NHL to Seattle,” Mayor Murray said. “Two well-known organizations submitted proposals to redevelop KeyArena, totaling more than $1 billion in investments between them. Their interest shows how Seattle has become one of the most desirable cities in America for sports and entertainment. Seattle Partners and Oak View Group’s proposals, as well as the existing option presented by Chris Hansen, reflect our growth as a city, and we look forward to charting the best path forward to #bringbackourSonics.”

Below the jump are some quick facts gleaned from the presentation and some shiny renderings.

Oak View Group Proposal

Oak View included a rendering of the renovated interior. (Oak View Group)

Oak View Group proposes a slightly larger facility but the seating capacity between the two is quite similar.

Oak View Group’s proposal maintains the iconic Paul Thiry roof.
  • $564 million estimated cost
  • 850-stall parking garage
  • 20-month construction timeline
  • 35 year lease with five optional 10-year extensions
  • 660,000 square-foot facility

AEG/Seattle Partners Proposal

Seattle Partners proposal for Seattle Center Coliseum. (AEG)
  • $520-540 million in estimated cost
  • $5 million to create a shared mobility hub adjacent to the arena
  • $144 million in surplus revenue to City over the course of lease
  • 600,000 square-foot facility
  • 35-year lease with three optional 10-year extensions

It’s hard to decipher much until the developers release more details from their plans. However, I would give the edge to the AEG proposal so far because it focused investment on a shared mobility hub that would integrate with Uptown’s future subway station. Meanwhile, Oak View Group invested in a 850-stall parking garage.

Parking is likely to be a wedge issue, but, on big projects like this one, I think it’s crucial that the City place faith in its extensive multimodal efforts and long-range plans and expect our drive alone rate in Seattle to continue to drop. It’s Oak View Group’s money to waste, but I think the wiser investment is in maximizing our Uptown light rail station and improving bus connections, walkability and safe bicycling connections. The public can derive greater benefits from a mobility hub–even folks who do not attend sportsball games.

For those interested in learning more or perhaps asking questions of the arena’s planners, the City of Seattle will host an open house with the proposers and the public on May 11th at KEXP from 5pm to 8pm.

The Merits Of Upgrading Seattle Center Coliseum

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

A preservationist angle to this redevelopment is that the home of Pottery Northwest ( looks like it might get obliterated in the process if it is not considered by the other parties involved. Both from a historic building and an artistic cultural perspective the spot is pretty important. Pottery Northwest has been in/at Seattle Center since its inception in 1966 and quite a few artists who partook of their residency program are now national and internationally respected ceramic artists.

Brian Nelson

I was disappointed that neither proposal went into any real detail on how they plan to move 17-18K regional fans in/out of LQA 1-3 days a week for 6 months out of the year. Weeknight games at Key Arena were a monster to get to in the early 2000’s and would continue to be for the foreseeable future if this is the option we end up with. We’d be looking at 10-15 years before a completely built-out light rail system is ready to move fans across the region to a renovated LQA arena. IMO, turn the Key/Coliseum exclusively into a world class concert venue and move the sports teams down to SoDo. We already know SoDo’s infrastructure can handle 27-69K fans per event and have a group that is one street vacation away from building an arena there.

FWIW I think the OVG proposal mock-ups look nicer, think the glass roof with a view of the Space Needle is a nice touch and gives it a unique tie-in to the city that only can be found at this location.