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The KeyArena Naming Rights Conundrum

Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans reported yesterday that KeyArena, where the Seattle Storm will begin their regular season on June 4, is still has no closer to finding a sponsor for its naming rights since KeyBank let its contract expire on December 31.

Storm | Storm mourns loss of former WNBA player Margo Dydek | Seattle Times Newspaper
A source with Seattle City Council said there hasn't been any movement on finding a new sponsor for KeyArena. The name of the Storm's homecourt could change midseason if Seattle Center secures a new naming-rights agreement. The bank opted not to renew after 15 years.

The reason for the name change, of course, was the departure of the Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma City - without a NBA team playing in the facility, there has been less attention to it, and thus less incentive to continue the contract.

Which leads to an interesting conundrum.

Back in 2009, city officials optimistically believed that they could lure a NBA team back to Seattle by the end of the contract with a $300 million KeyArena expansion project, according to the Seattle Times.

Things didn't quite work out that way, as you're probably well aware.

And without that, even lower-profile tenants have bolted KeyArena.

Seattle Group Interested In Bringing NHL To Town, But Plenty Of Obstacles To Hurdle -
The situation in Key Arena is so bad that the Western Hockey League's Thunderbirds moved out of the building and into their own gorgeous, 6,500-seat arena 30 minutes south of Seattle proper. The building was home to the Seattle Sonics of the NBA before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

In addition to the Storm, KeyArena is still home to Seattle University Redhawks basketball, the Rat City Rollergirls, and concerts. But as Brian Floyd described the other day in his piece about NHL relocation, the facility is "...old and outdated, in professional sports terms, and no owner would be satisfied using it as-is."

So put simply, it seems that KeyArena is a major obstacle to finding the type of high-profile tenant for KeyArena that might attract a major buyer in the market for naming rights. And if finding a high-profile tenant is part of the naming rights equation, that leaves the city and the Seattle Center in bad spot in their search for a new sponsor.

And clearly, the fact that Fenway Sports Group is currently "combing the earth" for a sponsor for FC Liverpool's new stadium - with an interest in expanding their empire in the United States - probably doesn't help. Obviously.