Should Seattle’s new sports arena go in SoDo or Seattle Center? Here’s how to decide, and how to speak out

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Seattle’s City Council is in the process of deciding which of several arena proposals to approve in hopes of attracting professional basketball and hockey back to the city.

Proposals to renovate Seattle Center’s KeyArena in Queen Anne were submitted to the Office of Economic Development on Wednesday. A previous proposal to build an arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood is still on the table. So which will it be?

Even if you are not a sports fan, the council’s decision will impact you in many ways. Care about Seattle traffic or housing prices? Now is the time to become informed of the issues and involved in the process.

Seattle Traffic

A new arena is expected to host upwards of 200 events, including concerts and home games. This could mean more than 17,000 spectators arriving for each of the 82 combined NHL and NBA regular-season home games played throughout the week.

If you commute south out of downtown, SDOT director Scott Kubly anticipates needing to close Holgate Street on event nights if the SoDo location is chosen. Though the location is within a half-mile of several light rail stops, southbound evening commutes could get longer with a SoDo arena.

If you commute through the Mercer corridor, Seattle Transit Blog editor Martin Duke suggests a Seattle Center arena could be cause for concern. The site will not be served by light rail until 2035 at the earliest, and the additional car traffic for event nights will compound traffic woes anticipated to be heightened already with planned corporate office expansions.

Seattle Housing Prices

Real estate experts suggest that the arena location could affect surrounding development and housing prices.

White Center, according to realtor Phil Greely, could see escalating home values and further transformation if a sports and entertainment complex is sited in the nearby SoDo neighborhood. Pioneer Square, SoDo, and Georgetown could also see increased housing prices if the arena serves as a catalyst for future residential, corporate, and retail development south of downtown.

Lower Queen Anne and the surrounding area would likely see an opposite impact on real estate if the arena is in Seattle Center; house values could actually go down, according to Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. That’s because that area of Seattle is undergoing significant development regardless of the arena decision, and Gardner cautions that the traffic congestion and parking crunch that 17,000 spectators would create in the neighborhood could depress housing values.

Jeff has conducted several in-depth interviews to learn how a new arena will affect the city. (Courtesy of Seattle Growth Podcast)

What can you do?

  • Get informed about how the City Council’s decision will affect you and life in this city. I was drawn into the arena question by the passion of fans of the NBA and the city’s previous Sonics franchise. After interviewing city leaders, residents, business leaders, and the leaders behind the arena proposals, I came to realize just how much the City Council’s decision can further transform our city. You can visit my site, SeattleGrowthPodcast.com/SonicBoom, to hear in-depth interviews about the two location proposals and how the arena location would affect not only your commute and home values, but also your children, public land use, and other aspects of life in this city.
  • Share your opinion with the City Council on the same day as others from around the city. To amplify your voices and their impact, I’ve coordinated with others to make Monday, April 17, Sonic Boom Day: the day residents on all sides of the issue make their opinions known. Reaching out to city leaders on the same day will give city leaders a more complete picture of what their constituents want. Email, call, or visit the 10:30 a.m. City Council meeting at City Hall. You will realize that engaging in the civic process is easy and rewarding.
  • If you don’t know what to say, adapt this simple script for your point of view. The script helps you apply guidance on effective advocacy offered by former City Councilmember Sally Clark.


I live in  __(where you live)___ . I am reaching out in support of  __(choose: a SoDo arena / a Seattle Center arena)__ . I have been learning about the key issues from ___(enter information source, e.g. Seattle Growth Podcast)___.  I believe ___(choose: SoDo / Seattle Center)___ is the right choice because ___ (write one to three reasons)___.

I hope you will support ___(Seattle Center / SoDo arena)___ . Thank you for your time.