Deal to renovate KeyArena the culmination of a long political battle

The exhausting, at times tumultuous process to renovate KeyArena didn’t start in May 2016 when a rival project for the city’s Sodo District was rejected by the city council. The roots date to 2013, when some began exploring whether a KeyArena renovation was possible.

With Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan planning Wednesday to green-light a $600 million renovation of KeyArena, a long-fought battle to approve a major sports arena plan for NBA and NHL use appears to finally be concluding.

The exhausting, at times tumultuous process to renovate a 55-year-old facility didn’t start in May 2016 when a rival project pitched by entrepreneur Chris Hansen for the city’s Sodo District was rejected by the city council. Rather, the roots date to 2013, when Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) quietly began exploring whether a KeyArena renovation was possible.

And the battle to convince people it could be done was an arduous affair, culminating with the city council voting 7-1 on Monday to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Tim Leiweke-led Oak View Group to undertake the renovation and bring NBA and NHL teams here.

Council members and other city proponents of renovating KeyArena have been accused by some Sodo supporters of being in the pockets of big business, the Port of Seattle and other entities.

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Some fans even lashed out with misogynistic vitriol toward female council members after their “No” votes helped defeat Hansen’s efforts in May 2016.

“Since we took a vote in May of 2016, it’s been a long road, particularly for my female colleagues,” council member Debora Juarez said Monday. “The irony here today is that the women — and just a couple of men, my colleagues — put in the hard work to get this done.”

She added: “I think some people thought that because that happened, that somehow some of us would be punitive and vindictive. But in fact … that just made us more emboldened to do the right thing and do our homework.”

And what they learned about KeyArena, its renovation potential and the money companies would spend on it, differed greatly from what the public narrative had been.

Indeed, the backlash against the council members was inspired partly by fan frustration and ignorance. Some fans had been led to believe — by oft-repeated notions about KeyArena’s renovation potential — that a Sodo arena had been the…

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