Where to build an NBA arena in Bellevue?

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With rumors this week that at least one person is investigating sites to build an NBA arena in Bellevue (Bellevue SuperSonics, anyone?), I wondered what sites are under consideration.

How much space is needed?

First, I looked up the details of the most recently constructed NBA complex, Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. While the name is perhaps the worst name for an arena in the country (on par with Value City Arena for the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team), the complex is state of the art. The compound sits on 9 acres and has garage parking.

It’s hard for me visualize how big 9 acres is, so I took to Bing Maps. Here’s a screen shot of the Amway Center site (1 inch = 1k feet).

I then isolated the arena with some additional land for parking, which I would use to size potential sites in Bellevue:

Option 1: Bellevue Downtown Park

Ok, this probably isn’t a real option, but if you truly wanted a downtown basketball arena in Bellevue, this site is perfect.

As you can see, the arena would fit perfectly in Bellevue Downtown Park. The site itself is 20 acres, which makes sense for the arena: ~9 acres for the arena and 11 acres for additional parking. Plus, with the Bellevue Square garage a block to the north, parking would be plentiful for 8pm games.

Now, the opposition to this site would be strong and powerful. Bellevue Downtown Park is a mini “Central Park” for Bellevue. It features a 1/2 mile running and walking trail, beautiful water features, and plenty of grass to play and relax on. With the influx of apartment and condo buildings in Bellevue, it has become one of the few open spaces in all of Bellevue. It would be a crying shame to bulldoze the site in favor of an NBA arena, but I’m just calling out the option.

Option 2: Car Dealership Row

Along 116th between Main and 8th, there’s a long stretch of defunct car dealerships. The real estate is prime yet undeveloped. There appears to be a massive opportunity to put something useful in this space, as well as cover up the cracking asphalt that now features weeds as high as corn stalks.

As you can see, the arena would not fit perfectly here. It overlaps the abandoned rail line (which could one day feature the East Link connection), and even butts up against the existing Best Buy and Home Depot.

But with a little creativity, the site could fit if the parking garages were placed to the north, south, and across the street from an arena built on the east side of 116th. The site definitely appears to be a possibility.

From a transportation perspective, the site is near perfect. It has easy highway access via 4th and 8th, would be near the future East Link train connection, and wouldn’t clog up downtown.

However, there would be plenty of opposition to this site as well. The Wilburton neighborhood would have plenty to say about this potential site. Basically, “NIMBY.” They have (so far) successfully fought off the NE 4th Street extension, which has been funded since 2009, but there are no signs of progress.

Option 3: Safeway Complex off 124th

Safeway has a huge distribution center and bottling facility on both sides of 124th. I heard on 710  ESPN that this was one of the sites the Chicago businessman who’s interested in bringing an NBA/NHL team to the area visited in Bellevue. Not sure exactly where he was looking, but there does look like ample room for a stadium.

It looks like not 1 but 3 arenas could fit on the site. Which means plenty of parking and the possibility of additional entertainment/eating/shopping along with the arena.

The close freeway access is another benefit, with 405 and 520 just a few blocks away. And, with light rail proposed in there area (proposal along 12th), it could be a sweet spot.

Another benefit is the fact that it’s largely an industrial area – very few houses are in the vicinity. There doesn’t appear to be a huge NIMBY problem with the Safeway site.

We may have a winner.

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