Seattle Storm To Stay At KeyArena

New deal will see Storm will play at the arena till 2028

  • by Andrew N. McLean
  • Published: June 14, 2017

WNBA team Seattle Storm will stay at KeyArena through 2028.

The Seattle City Council has approved a new deal that will make KeyArena home to the Seattle Storm of the WNBA through Dec. 31, 2028. The new deal will supersede, terminate and replace the previous contract.

The agreement between Storm owners Force 10 Hoops LLC (F10H) and the city of Seattle contains many of the components of the previous deal. As a part of the revenue sharing deal, beginning in 2017, F10H will receive an annual payment of $340,198 for building naming rights. Also included are advertising, premium seating and suite sales. F10H will pay a minimum of $5,715 per game for lower bowl configuration. A larger fee of $8,115 will be implemented for the use of lower and upper bowl seating.  

"The lease renewal is very similar to the earlier one; however, due to plans for redevelopment of KeyArena, we wanted to more specifically address that issue for the team,” said Edie Burke, general manager at KeyArena. “The first contract was negotiated shortly after the Sonics left.  Both organizations have learned a lot since that time so we wanted to capture some of the standard operating procedures we have established throughout the 10 ten years."

In February of 2009, F10H signed a 10-year agreement to remain at KeyArena. In the wake of the SuperSonics departing, the city council agreed on a deal that would lower costs and boost revenue for F10H. This agreement afforded F10H 30 percent of concession revenue, a $10,000 rent decrease per home game and a minimum of $300,000 annually from the city for allowing Seattle Center advertising throughout and around KeyArena. The existing deal was set to end Dec. 31, 2018.

Even with the new agreement to play the next 10 seasons in KeyArena, the Storm may have to play a portion of their home games elsewhere. Their leave of absence may be lengthy, and a back-up venue has not yet been decided.

"Our new contract with the Storm addresses relocation due to renovations,” said Burke. “We will work together to find them a suitable location if they needed to host any of their games outside of the arena."

The city is currently finalizing a $500-million plan with Oak View Group to replace and renovate the structure of KeyArena. If this deal is implemented, the Storm will be forced to relocate for up to three seasons. This will come at a cost to the city.

If F10H follows all scheduling guidelines but are forced to play a regular season home game away from KeyArena either due to Bumbershoot (an annual music festival which takes place during the Women’s National Basketball Association season) or renovations, the city would be responsible for paying F10H up to $260,000 per game. If the Storm are not permitted to play in KeyArena for 11 games to two seasons, the city would be responsible for paying F10H $2.6 million per season. Though KeyArena may take a financial hit during renovations, they're hoping for a big payoff upon its completion.

"The renovations will include upgrades that enhance the playing and viewing of WNBA, National Basketball Association (NBA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) basketball as well as National Hockey League (NHL) games. Of course, it will also continue to be able to host live entertainment events," Burke said

Obligations to the city from F10H  include community service programs each season involving players, coaches, staff and owners, that teach the city's youth a healthy and active lifestyle. 

F10H must follow a program that provides 1,000 tickets to local nonprofit organizations in efforts to give children with a lack of resources an opportunity to experience a WNBA game. The team must enter an environmental sustainability program to assist in educating the public about steps that'll create a cleaner and healthier environment. Also, the team must enter into a ticket pricing structure that sees to it there is a minimum of 500 tickets sold at $15 or less apeice, per game. This will ensure that people of all communities and financial backgrounds have the ability to attend a game. Currently, on Ticketmaster.com, Storm tickets range from as low as $9 to as high as $83.

"We have an early-saver zone, which is part of BECU,” said Alisha Valavanis, president and general manager of the Storm. “It provides discounted tickets for families to come into the building and experience Storm basketball. We’re doing things across the board to focus on families and young kids."

Along with receiving $340,198 annually for building naming rights and advertising outside the arena and inside along the upper bowl, F10H will have the exclusive rights to sell and license temporary advertising during home games. F10H will have the right to the following sections of the lower bowl: the digital signage, the basketball floor, basketball goal supports' padding, backboards, player benches, 24-second clock, press table, scorer’s table, visiting team and trainer equipment, video portion of the jumbotron, the concrete walls in the lower bowl, the seats and seat backs in the lower and upper bowl, the blimp and similar devices approved by the building manager, media room, settlement room, courtside entrance, family lounge and the curtain.

F10H is required to ensure that 10 percent of the available signage for each home game is left available for city advertisements. However, the team is entitled to 100 percent of gross revenue allocated by advertisement, granted it's in the listed sections. The Storm have 30 sponsors and partnerships listed on their site, with the most contributions coming from Swedish Medical Center. 

A number of alternative arena uses were etched into the deal, including practices, fundraisers, and parking. The deal states the Storm are allowed to use KeyArena for team practices when no home games are scheduled as long as the request is made 45 days in advance. The team can utilize the arena for practice for up to four hours. However, a scheduled practice can be canceled by KeyArena for a revenue generating activity, as long as F10H is notified 10 days in advance. F10H will also be allowed to request the arena for five fan-generation events, or sponsor development events, per season. As long as it is requested in advance and a home game is not scheduled on that day. F10H will be issued 500 authorized parking permits, for players, coaches, and team staff to be used in First Avenue Parking Garage. Staff may also utilize South KeyArena parking lots for no additional cost, if parking is available.

The Storm have been a success since they've arrived at the KeyArena, winning the Women’s National Basketball Association Championship in 2004 and 2010. In the 17 home games played at KeyArena last season, the Storm welcomed 7,230 fans per game. This total was an 11-percent increase from 2015 when the team hosted 6,515 fans per game. In 2016, the Storm reported it reached a 389-percent increase in local viewership with 171, 917 total viewers. The team also saw a 60-percent increase in national viewership. According to the team page, The Storm estimated reaching 22.1 billion via earned media.

The Storm are scheduled to play 17 home games each WNBA season, excluding pre-season, post-season and the WNBA All-Star Game, which was awarded to KeyArena for the 2017 season.

"For the game, we will activate our plaza,” said Valavanis. “We’ll do kind of fan fest type activities the day of the game… the numbers look strong. We sold out the lower bowl. We’re continuing to drive attendance."

The All-Star Game will be played July 22 and will be broadcast on ABC.

  • by Andrew N. McLean
  • Published: June 14, 2017