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Developers now have the keys to Seattle's KeyArena

caption: Seattle's Key Arena was rebuilt from the ground up in 1994-1995, and started hosting the WNBA Seattle Storm in 2002.
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Seattle's Key Arena was rebuilt from the ground up in 1994-1995, and started hosting the WNBA Seattle Storm in 2002.

Seattle's City Council has approved a 39-year lease with Seattle Arena Company (ArenaCo) to occupy and run KeyArena.

The developers have planned a $700 million overhaul of the facility, which renovates the entire interior for basketball, hockey and other events, while leaving the historic roof intact. ArenaCo and city officials worked together on the deal in hopes of luring professional men's hockey and basketball to the city. The renovation will increase the venue's capacity by about 3,000 people. It will hold a concert crowd of more than 19,000 people.

City Council members, including Sally Bagshaw, praised the game-changing agreement for the arena and Seattle Center.

"This is a big deal, and it is a different deal than we were looking at 2.5 years ago," said Bagshaw. She was referring to 2016 when the council denied plans for a brand new sports arena in Sodo, and received derogatory and threatening messages in the aftermath.

One huge difference this time around: There's no ask for public money. The renovation is privately financed through Oak View Group and ArenaCo.

Bagshaw said this deal paves the way for new sports teams. "We know the NHL is within our grasp. I believe we'll see NBA by 2025."

Mayor Jenny Durkan says throughout the process the City had two goals: "get the best possible deal for Seattle and our taxpayers, and create a world class sports and music facility for the next fifty years."

Under the agreement, construction can only start if and when the NHL announces it will bring a team to Seattle, unless the city approves a waiver allowing construction to start earlier.

Oak View Group, the ownership group of the future NHL Seattle team, plans to present the KeyArena plans to the NHL October 2nd. The group has also committed to working with the NBA to attract a potential team in the coming years.

ArenaCo, the developers, want to start demolition in October and reopen the venue by 2021. The city is working with neighborhood groups to plan for changes in traffic during and after construction.

Monday, on the heels of the Seattle Storm's 2018 WNBA Championship title, the City Council also renamed parts of Second Avenue North as Seattle Storm Way.

The two WNBA championship games played at KeyArena in September were some of the last events in the current building. The final event scheduled before demolition is October 6, when the NBA will host the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings in Seattle.

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