Community Post

Seattle U Now Division I: New Arena in Our Future?

Back in the 50s and 60s, our neighborhood Jesuit college had a first-rate basketball team that made it to the NCAA tournament 11 times.  They even made it to the championship game in 1958, losing by 12 points to Kentucky.   But in 1980 the high costs of sustaining a competitive team became too much for the small school, and they dropped down to Division II.

But now things are different in the world of college basketball, with schools like Gonzaga proving that even small programs can build very capable teams and bring in a lot of national attention and revenue.  So Seattle U is on a track to reenter Division I competition in several sports, including basketball.   This year they’ll play a mixed schedule of Division I & II teams, and if they prove themselves, they could be granted full Division I status as soon as next year.

For now they’ll be playing basketball at Key Arena.  They’ve got a history there, where it served as their home court back when it was the old civic colosseum.   But as the Seattle Times reports today, the school’s long term plans could include a new major sports facility on the Seattle U campus:

“I have said at times that before I finish as president I would like to beat Gonzaga on our own home court at Seattle University,” [Seattle University President Father Stephen Sundborg] said. “But that’s kind of like John Kennedy wanting to go to the moon. All of that will depend upon how we develop the program. What kind of winning program we get and what kind of attendance we get.”

Still there’s been no serious discussion about building an arena on campus.

Rumors have swirled in the neighborhood that basketball is the real reason the school has bought the old Coca Cola bottling plant at 14th & Columbia.   Folks suspect they’d tear it down and build a new 7,000-10,000 seat arena for the team.  Although the building’s exterior has been designated as a landmark, there’s a number of ways the school could get around that, such as by incorporating the exterior into the design of a future project.

But whether that’s the actual plan or not, there’s not a whole lot of available space on their campus for a major new building, so one would have to assume that an arena would be built somewhere on the periphery of the campus, thus having a substantial impact on our neighborhood.  And you can be sure that we’ll have a lot of local excitement and discussions if anything like that is put forward in the coming years.

You can get tickets now for Seattle U’s first Division I basketball game against Loyola on January 1 at Key Arena.   Visit for more details.

0 thoughts on “Seattle U Now Division I: New Arena in Our Future?

  1. if UW cannot get $ for a new stadium and if Key Arena remains without a major tenant, i cannot see how SU gets one in the next 20 years.

  2. Right now Seattle University is in the early stages of developing a new Major Institution Master Plan. The MIMP is intended to outline the University’s development over the next twenty years — until almost 2030. Among all of the proposed development in the draft MIMP there is no mention of a basketball arena.

    The draft MIMP does suggest a possible addition of 280,000 square feet at 1313 E. Columbia, the address of the Coca Cola Building. Almost unique among the the list of potential developments, the use for a project at that location is not identified. While the University describes possible projects including new housing, new academic buildings, and new student center space and describes where those projects might be, the 280,000 square feet at 1313 E. Columbia is identifed only by address. The university staff presenting the MIMP to the public has stated that the lack of specificity for this site is because the future use is unknown.

    On the other hand, if the potential use for this site (or any neighborhood site) includes a basketball arena, it seems fair for that spcific use to be part of the discussion now.

    Development of the MIMP includes periodic public meetings of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and opportunities for the public to comment in person and in writing. If you’re interested, take advantage of the chance to let the University and the City know what you think about a basketball arena in your neighborhood — or any other proposed S.U. development. S.U. is expanding and will have an increasing impact on the neighborhood. Some good, some maybe less so. The more that neighbors speak out, the more will decision makers include neighborhood vitality in the equation.

  3. I also think it may be crazy talk, but I assume SU would do it all with private money, making it different from the proposed UW facility …


    On a more sober note, what Bill described above affects people over a huge area, Central, Cap Hill and First Hill….