Five years ago, Renton almost became Sonics' new home

Yes, Renton was in the running as the new home of the Seattle Sonics in 2007. The back of the t-shirt reads:
Yes, Renton was in the running as the new home of the Seattle Sonics in 2007. The back of the t-shirt reads: 'Ahead of the Key, Baby!', referring to KeyArena in Seattle. The t-shirt was the idea of the Renton Rotary Club in May 2006 to promote Renton as the new home of the Sonics and to raise money for the Renton Community Foundation.
— image credit: Renton Reporter

Almost five years ago to the day, the Seattle Sonics unveiled a plan to build a $500 million, multi-purpose arena in Renton.

It was to be the new home of the Sonics, whose new owner, Clay Bennett, figured Seattle's Key Arena wasn't the place for a professional basketball team to succeed financially.

So he offered Renton and an 18,000-seat arena as an alternative on 21 acres in north Renton that Boeing owned. The state Legislature nixed the plan a month later, in April 2007, because of Bennett's desire to use about $300 million in public dollars to help pay for the arena.

Bennett moved the one-time world champions to Oklahoma.

Fast forward to Thursday. The amount hasn't changed, $500 million, but the name on the proposal has changed to Christopher Hansen and the location has changed to near Seattle's Safeco Field.

Hansen wants about $200 million in financing from the city of Seattle and King County. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and county Executive Dow Constantine stood together on Thursday to announce the plan.

The Sacramento Kings is most likely the team to move to the new arena.

But five years ago and even earlier, while Bennett was still putting together his plans, many in Renton were ready to embrace the Sonics and the millions of dollars in tax revenue and local sales the games would generate.

The Renton Rotary Club commissioned hundreds of Sonics-colored t-shirts with the words, "Renton Future Home of the Sonics," emblazoned across the front. And the back was a play on the city's marketing slogan. It read: "Ahead of the Key, Baby!"

And the City of Renton spent $20,000 to analyze the economic impact the arena would have on the city. Besides as a venue for the Sonics, the arena would have hosted conventions, concerts and other major events.

The $500 million stadium unveiled Thursday would host an NBA team and a National Hockey League team, according to a City of Seattle news release.

Hansen would raise $290 million in private investment for the facility, with the rest financed by tax revenues generated by the facility and property and rental income paid by the team. No new taxes would be used.

Constantine and McGinn said any agreement eventually reached by the city, county and the private investor must adhere to the following principles:

• A new arena must be self-funding, and not rely on new taxes;

• Existing city and county funds and services would not be adversely impacted;

• Private investors would bear risk against revenue shortfalls;

• Any project cost overruns will be the responsibility of private investors;

• Private funding should be provided for a study of ways that Key Arena can be modified to keep it a financially successful part of Seattle Center.



BELOW: The Sonics proposed in 2007 to build this arena in north Renton.




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