The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted landmark status for the city’s iconic Key Arena, a move that will help guide recently-proposed renovations for the 55-year-old structure. Earlier this year, Los Angeles–based developers Oak View Group unveiled a speculative bid to renovate and update the aging structure in an attempt to lure professional basketball and hockey teams to the Emerald City. The $564 million scheme was selected by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in lieu of a competing bid from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties, partially because Oak View’s proposal sought to keep intact more of the structure’s historic, character-defining features, like its hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The recent landmark designation is expected to aid in this endeavor by creating a predictable and orderly scope for the renovations to proceed. Potentially, the landmark status could also allow the development to benefit from historic tax credits. The structure, according to Arena Digest, was recognized by the preservation board for meeting all six thresholds for historic designation, with the building’s roof, exterior walls, and structural trusses receiving official status. Key Arena was designed by architect Paul A. Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition. The structure became a sports arena in the years after the exposition and played home to the Seattle Supersonics professional basketball team from 1967 until 2008 when the team decamped for Oklahoma City. The structure received extensive renovations in 1995 that partially impacted the now-historic roof structure. It is unclear how or if the new renovation scheme will seek to repair these changes.
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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has selected a proposal by Los Angeles–based Oak View Group to redevelop the city’s Key Area as part of a $564 million scheme aimed at remaking and updating the aging sports complex. The city is hoping to lure National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises to Seattle by transforming and expanding the existing arena. Key Arena was originally designed by architect Paul A. Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition, the same world’s fair event that saw the construction of the Seattle Space Needle and other notable structures across the city. The structure became a sports venue after the expo and hosted the Seattle Supersonics NBA team from 1967 until 2008, when the team left Seattle for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Murray chose Oak View Group’s proposal against a competing bid from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties. According to Murray, the Oak View Group proposal was better for the city due to its design and financial details, including plans to have the arena renovation be entirely privately financed. The competing bid, according to Murray, required extensive public bonds to pencil out and threatened the building’s architectural and historic integrity while simultaneously not going far enough in its overhaul. According to King 5 news, Mayor Murray said, “Oak View Group really is building an entire new arena under the current roof. It's not just a remodel, but a completely new arena.” Oak View Group’s proposal, on the other hand, would dig down 15-feet below the arena’s existing bottom in order to expand the facility to 660,000 square feet. The existing roof and other heroic structural elements on Key Arena will be left entirely intact under Oak View Group’s proposal—unlike the competing bid, which sought to pierce a portion of the roof with a new structure. The arena complex will be expanded underneath the roof to include new raked seating and will ultimately be able to accommodate concert, NHL, and NBA seating configurations. The public plaza areas surrounding the arena will also be renovated under the scheme. In a speech announcing his selection of Oak View Group’s bid, Murray said, "I chose this proposal because I believe it is a proposal that will bring the Sonics back to Seattle eventually, a track and NHL team, and give us the best entertainment that this world provides.” Following Murray’s decision, Oak View Group’s bid heads toward the Seattle City Council for consideration. It expected that once approved, construction on the arena would take three to four years to complete.