SEATTLE — Legendary former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens is one of 11 community leaders named Thursday as part of a new advisory panel to explore the viability of renovating KeyArena for NBA and NHL use.
The panel, announced by Mayor Ed Murray, will review KeyArena proposals and the analysis of city staffers before making recommendations on how to proceed.
At least two California-based arena companies, Anschutz Entertainment Group and Oak View Group, are expected to respond with proposals by an April 12 deadline.
“Seattle is in a unique position with multiple interested parties who want to invest in the kind of arena that could attract music, sports and entertainment to our growing region,” Murray said in a release. “We are paving the way for the Sonics to come home and to building a world-class entertainment venue in Seattle, and I look forward to working with this panel on the possibility of KeyArena being part of that path.”
Wilkens, a basketball Hall of Famer as a player, coach and executive, guided the Sonics to their only NBA title in 1979.
“I have, and always will, be working to help our great city bring the NBA back to town. I am looking forward to reviewing the RFP proposals while offering advice to the mayor,“ Wilkens said in a release. “I have fond memories of playing and coaching basketball in this city, and I hope to see the NBA return sooner than later! While I support all options for bringing basketball back, I will be going into this process with my eyes wide open.”
Other committee members include Jan Levy, chair of the Seattle Center Advisory Committee; Deborah Frausto, president of the Seattle Uptown Alliance; Nicole Grant, executive secretary of the King-County Labor Council; restauranteur Ethan Stowell, music executive Megan Jasper, business leader Ollie Garrett, former pro hockey player Todd Humphrey, architect Rico Quirindongo and Jill Nishi, chief of staff for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
City staff review teams will do a detailed analysis of AEG and OVG proposals received and forward them on to the advisory panel.
From there, an executive review team of city administrators will consider the analysis and the panel recommendations before submitting a final report to Murray by late June.
The executive review team will be comprised of Brian Surratt, director of the Office of Economic Development; Robert Nellams, director of the Seattle Center; and also Ben Noble, the director of the City of Seattle Budget Office.
Surratt’s office is handling the KeyArena proposal process.
At a meeting of the Uptown Alliance community group in Lower Queen Anne last week, Surratt first mentioned the advisory panel and promised local residents and business owners that their concerns about a KeyArena renovation would be heard.
“We will have the committee really try to reflect as much as possible all of the interests that go into what the future of KeyArena can look like,” Surratt said.
Beyond KeyArena, the city is also studying an all-private proposal by entrepreneur Chris Hansen to build a brand new arena in the city’s SoDo District.
That project is expected to be under review for about six months, which means a decision on KeyArena’s viability will likely be decided before Hansen’s offer is addressed further.
Hansen wants the city to vacate a one-block stretch of Occidental Avenue South he needs to make his project “shovel ready.”
The city already voted down his first request for the street last May, when the project would have required up to $200 million in public bond money.