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Tukwila Arena appears mostly beneficial to Sounders

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The ambitious plan to lure an NHL and NBA team to the south King County suburb sets an arena just a half mile south of Starfire Stadium home of the Sounders soccer offices, their practice fields and the stadium that hosts S2 and Open Cup games.

KING5

Seattle's quest for an arena that would enable a return for the NBA and/or an NHL franchise received a challenge from tiny neighbor Tukwila, it was revealed on Tuesday. Chris Daniels of KING5 and Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times had some great details. The proposal is a huge change for a town that is defined more by Southcenter Mall than entertainment districts. If completed, there could be some ancillary benefits for the Sounders, while the challenges of two more pro teams in the market remain the same.

If the Tukwila Arena gets built it would nestle between the commuter rail station and the Green River. A portion of the proposal involves a pedestrian bridge over the river that would connect a local park to the entertainment district and parking structure that is part of the arena plan.

Indoor sport advocates are following this new proposal because it is a challenge to Chris Hansen's SoDo Arena Plan. It is not an ideal location, since it is away from the city, not on light rail and current bus route planning does not address what would only be seasonal traffic. There are also questions about names attached to the project and funding.

Sources tell Sonics Rising that there is potential investment concern over the viability of the project. Between the arena construction and NHL and NBA team acquisitions, this could very well be a $2 billion investment before even taking into account operation of the teams and facilities. As details emerge and are refined, those concerns may be put to rest.

In addition, some apprehension has been expressed over some of those involved in the project group, namely Fred Brown. Daniels notes that the Tukwila documents identify Brown as having been the lead through some of this arena process. Brown was also the lead behind the earlier failed Emerald City Center project, and significant questions were raised during that process.

Details of this specific plan aside, the location has several significant benefits for the Seattle Sounders.

  1. It would not create further crowding in SoDo. Currently CenturyLink Field tenants and SafeCo Field tenants have to jockey for advantage in regards to major matches. The area hosts one event quite well. Two events on the same day create parking hassles, as we saw as recently as Sunday when the extra-inning Mariners game created a bit of a nightmare for the Sounders match.

  2. It would spur transportation and parking development near Starfire. The proposal is for more than 2,600 new parking spaces just a half-mile walk from Starfire Stadium. Add on increased demand for bussing and other transit along the Interurban corridor and a significant complaint about Open Cup and S2 matches suddenly disappears. Significantly expanding Starfire Stadium would also be more feasible.

  3. Part of the plan involves a kind of entertainment district/area that would stretch/connect from Southcenter past Odin Brewing to the new arena. That would make Starfire matches a bit more exciting for the type of fan that loves the downtown atmosphere of CenturyLink

Looking at a map of the area you can see just how close the arena is, how close that is to the mass transit in the area and how walkable the stretch from the Mall to Arena to Starfire is (with a nice bit wandering along the river even).

There are still the same business challenges for the Sounders from this and any other NBA/NHL to Seattle plan. Corporate dollars are finite, so is television time for sports and though the Seattle metro area sports dollar is not tapped out yet, this would be another drain on that.