Seattle’s City Hall was flooded with concerned citizens Tuesday night, many wearing their Supersonics gear in support of the proposed new state-of-the-art arena that would bring professional basketball and hockey teams to the city, as the Sustainability and Transportation Committee listened to public comment for over two hours. Council member, Mike O’Brien chaired the meeting.
The city is currently evaluating a proposed SoDo neighborhood multi-purpose arena that would seat between 18,000-20,000 people. The site is bounded by First Avenue South to the west, South Holgate Street to the south, South Massachusetts Street on the north, and the BNSF Railway right-of-way to the east. The proposal assumes the closure of Occidental Avenue South between South Massachusetts Street and South Holgate Street. The street closure was the focus of Tuesday night’s meeting.
“Vacating the street is an important step of restoring our civic history and giving back to the community”
Proponents of the arena believe the sports teams will generate revenue and create jobs both during construction and after. Even more, they believe bringing the Supersonics back to Seattle will rebuild camaraderie among fans, regardless of race, gender, religious belief or political affiliation, because, proponents argued, sports are good for a city’s morale. “Vacating the street is an important step of restoring our civic history and giving back to the community,” said Colin Baxter, one of the sports enthusiasts that provided in the public comment.
Opponents, however, argue that vacating Occidental Avenue could slow workers and trucks traveling to the marina by creating obstacles for them to work around. Some worry that these workers could potentially lose their jobs. Many argued that vacating the street now didn’t make any sense, especially since the city doesn’t have teams to even play at the arena at this point in time. A few citizens urged the city to consider alternate site for the building. “The concern we have is there’s a potential for trading good paying jobs for jobs that are service, part-time jobs,” said Steve Sule of the Washington Maritime Federation.
The purpose of the meeting was to hear public comment, therefore no decisions on the development were made. O’Brien thanked all who attended Tuesday night and said the committee will convene on April 5th for further consideration. According to the city’s Web site, the committee has reviewed the project several times over the last three years. On September 3, 2015, they approved the public benefit package of the proposed street closure with several conditions and recommendations, which will be reviewed during the process of evaluating comments.