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Guy Benson


Rantz: KeyArena renovation already in deep trouble after NHL delay

A mock up of what a hockey game could look like in Seattle, according to the KeyArena contractor. (Courtesy of Oak View Group)

Leave it to the City of Seattle to continuously over-promise and under-deliver — the latest reminder just a few days after they broke ground on a new home to a future NHL team.

First, they get us excited for a new NHL team for 2020, only to have the team start date pushed to the 2021 season. Now, it seems as though they went with the wrong developer.

According to Geoff Baker in The Seattle Times, Oak View Group may ditch their current contractor, Skanska, for the massive renovation project as it’s already exceeding their $800 million budget. Per Baker:

Originally forecast to come in at $600 million a year ago, the KeyArena project had ballooned to $700 million by mid-summer and then $800 million by the time the NHL franchise was awarded. Now, that cost could climb closer to $825 million or even $850 million as OVG prepares some added initiatives within the building.

According to the report, Skanska refused to sign a Guaranteed Maximum Price document, which promises not to exceed a specific price tag. Once construction begins, OVG may go with another local construction team.

This is pathetic — but expected.

For one, growing construction costs shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has done any work in the city and there should have been better external messaging on dealing with the budgetary realities. Why not, from the start, throw in a higher budget, knowing that the $600 million estimate would likely grow? Should this matter to us, when no public dollars are going to be used? Yes: because I’m not convinced no public dollars will be used, no matter what the agreement is.

Beyond this, the City of Seattle is pretty awful at their own construction projects, so it’s not shocking that they’d go with a developer who would act the same way. These are all issues that should have been addressed months ago, yet here we are dealing with them now.

The natural excitement for the new NHL team has been stymied, in large part, a shifting timeline, pushing completion until the 2021 season. I fear it’ll be pushed even longer. OVG doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the project, something we knew from the start when they pretended there would be no significant traffic problems on game-nights, even pretending there’s currently no westbound traffic on Mercer. That’s demonstrably false, of course.

We keep getting more bad news than good surrounding this NHL expansion. I’m just waiting for the next round of excitement-crushing news. I assume when it’s about to come out, they’ll hide the story with the announcement of the team name.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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