EDITORIAL | Mayor's arena words a cause for concern

Death. Taxes. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray having to walk back something he said.

If Ben Franklin were alive today, he’d see there are actually three certainties in life.

From last year’s abrupt about face on single-family zoning during the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) rollout last summer, to the timeline for clearing out the encampment known as “the Jungle” under I-5 earlier this year, we’ve become all too familiar with the mayor making a statement, quickly followed by backpedaling on his part.

Last week, he did it again.

In an interview with KUOW, Murray, discussing the arena issue, said that, “What we’ve heard from Chris Hansen is he’d really like that arena, but he himself is not going to bring us a team.”


No matter where you stand on the quest to bring an NBA/NHL arena in the city — an effort that will become increasingly clear in the coming months — few things have been more established than the fact that Hansen wants to own an NBA franchise (and that construction wouldn’t begin without securing a team). The debate is whether SODO is the right location.

Soon after that comment, and the frustration that followed from Sonics fans, the mayor’s office told KUOW that, “Hansen can’t bring a team to Seattle without the NBA or NHL making one available.”

Well, those are two entirely different statements, and the latter can hardly be called a clarification of the former.

The comment also led to the Hansen group releasing a statement the following day that said “the record clearly demonstrates our steadfast determination to bring basketball and hockey back to Seattle,” noting that the group bid on the only NBA franchise to come up for sale since the process began.

It should also be noted that while the Oak View Group — headed by Tim Leiweke — may be able to develop the KeyArena site and build a world-class arena up to league standards, they are prohibited from owning either an NBA or NHL team. One of the partners in the group is Madison Square Garden, which already owns one of each.

In an interview with 710 AM, Leiweke floated the idea that while the group could develop the site, Hansen could be the one to bring the franchise(s).

“We are fans of Chris,” Leiweke said. “We are friends with Chris. I admire Chris and (SODO partner Wally Walker). This is not a competition and we’ve made it very clear. We have no intention, our purpose here is not to own the team. Our purpose here is to help bring a team here.”

That’s what makes it all the more puzzling for Murray to, in effect, discount Hansen’s efforts with his original statement.

For someone planning to seek a second-term, it would behoove the mayor to start thinking about what he says the first time around, instead of having to clean up his statements after the fact.