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NBA, NHL respond to new Seattle Arena, KeyArena proposals

SEATTLE - It's been a roller coaster of a week, with all sorts of twists and turns on the track towards a new Seattle arena. It now appears the end of the line, with a new building, appears a bit foggier.

The Seattle Mayor's Office announced Wednesday it would open up a Request For Proposal (RFP) process on KeyArena. It followed an offer from Chris Hansen and his SoDo arena investment group to build his project without public funds.

Mayor Ed Murray says that AEG and Oak View Group, led by former AEG Chair Tim Leiweke, are both now expected to make bids.

AEG spokesperson Marc Berger on Friday said the company is excited about discussing a KeyArena renovation with the city.

"We view it as a fantastic development opportunity," said Berger, noting that the facility could be used for "live events," and potentially for sports. He called the public-private partnership component of any bid a "critical component," and traffic is a "big concern for us of course." Berger said traffic would thoughtfully be discussed and is "absolutely going to be critical."

No one -- not AEG nor Oak View -- is discussing finances at this point or whether they are planning on a small scale or large scale redevelopment.

The renewed interest in KeyArena comes after an AECOM report, first brought to light by KING 5, showed the Key could be renovated for NBA and NHL use for $285 million.

Murray noted the traffic around Seattle Center in his statement released late on Thursday, but the timing may be the biggest issue to come out of this new collective thinking at City Hall.

The mayor's pitch is to issue the RFP in January. According to two City Hall sources, that RFP could stay open for a few weeks or months. The city then would have to discuss the proposals. It could kill any momentum for the mayor to forward a re-submitted street vacation application for the Hansen group, or for the city council to take it up. Earlier this week, council members suggested the street vacation application could be entertained in either December 2016 or January 2017.

That could all change if the NBA or NHL came calling.

Both responded Friday to KING 5's request for comment. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league had, "No real reaction. Not anything we are really focused on right now." In the past, the NHL has scoffed at the idea of a remodeled KeyArena.

The NBA's spokesperson, Mike Bass, also told KING 5, "Our position remains unchanged. Expansion is not on our agenda right now."

Los Angeles real estate magnate Victor Coleman, who has met city officials, and at one point was working with Hansen as a potential NHL partner, did say he's still interested in Seattle.

"The work has never stopped on all fronts," he said.

The political context of the entire situation will also be fascinating to watch as Murray and two separate council members are up for re-election in 2017. Murray's attempt to explore KeyArena options is in stark contrast to the county's other top elected official. King County Executive Dow Constantine, who chairs the Sound Transit Board, said on Tuesday that even if the Sound Transit 3 measure passes next month, SoDo is a better location for a new multi-purpose arena and has better transportation connections that Seattle Center.