Officials insist Seattle arena deal would involve no public funds


by KING 5 News

Posted on February 23, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 29 at 5:20 PM

SEATTLE -- Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine on Thursday announced that they have received a proposal that would bring a new sports entertainment complex to Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, with the goal of returning professional basketball and hockey to the region.

Stressing that no taxpayer money would go into the project, McGinn and Constantine said up to $200 million of public funds could be used to finance construction. That money, which would involve a city-county bond issue, would be paid back by a combination of rent paid on the facility and new tax revenues.

Private investors, lead by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, would invest $290 million in the arena and be responsible for all cost overruns, McGinn and Constantine said.

The two elected officials said the arena project would create thousands of good-paying construction jobs in the short run, and would attract tourist revenue to the city as fans follow teams to Seattle.

They also stressed that they wanted to secure a long-term deal for the city and noted that the arena proposal involves a 30-year lease agreement by Hansen and his partners.

A joint city-county panel of citizens will review the arena proposal and, Constantine said, offer a "frank and honest appraisal" of the proposal.

The Arena Advisory Panel is tasked with submitting its findings and report to the county and city in March. The eight-member group will be lead by three people -- Jan Drago, a former Seattle and King County Councilmember; Maud Daudon, CEO of Seattle Northwest Securities Corporation; and Lenny Wilkens, NBA Hall of Famer and former SuperSonics coach.

Stressing that today's announcement was the first step in a long process, Constantine said, "This isn’t game 7, this is the tipoff of the first game of the preseason." McGinn echoed that point in his remarks, saying, "the planets need to align…I’m not going to predict” the outcome.

Two teams that could wind up in Seattle are the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. The Kings are working on a new arena deal with the City of Sacramento, with a March 1 deadline for reaching a final deal.  And the Coyotes are a struggling franchise that went through bankruptcy and is currently owned by the league.

Hansen met with three council members on Wednesday: Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell and Council President Sally Clark.

Burgess told KING 5 there was no discussion about terms and conditions, but Hansen talked fondly about the 1979 Sonics championship and how he loved the game.  Burgess described the chat as “general, friendly and warm.”

Clark told KING 5 Hansen said he figured it was time to show his face and did not mention a specific franchise for the proposal.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien said Wednesday, “I'd love to see it if it makes sense.” O'Brien added that it was his understanding there would be little to no public involvement in the financing, and “the only way a deal will be successful is if it doesn't include additional taxes on city, or leave the city holding the bag.”

Reporting by KING 5's Linda Brill and Chris Daniels.