As parties finalize Seattle arena terms, freight interests seek to slow project

As parties finalize Seattle arena terms, freight interests seek to slow project

Credit: SLV Native via Flickr.com

Seattle's port and adjoining rail and highway connections pass near the existing baseball and football stadiums. Port interests believe a third sports arena in the easily congested area could impede cargo traffic.

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisDaniels5

KING5.com

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 6:18 PM

SEATTLE – Sources in both City Hall and the County office indicate a Memorandum of Understanding is nearly complete to build a $490 million dollar NBA/NHL arena near Safeco Field.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, County Executive Dow Constantine, and investor Chris Hansen could make it official as early as next week.  The document, which will formalize the financial details of the proposal, will also include an “interlocal agreement” that will designate how the city and county intend to bond $200 million in debt. 

Hansen, McGinn, and Constantine have previously said the debt would be repaid by “arena-generating revenue” like admissions fees.  Sources say the City of Seattle will likely be asked to bond a majority of the debt.

The MOU would then go to the Seattle City and King County councils for approval.  Hansen has indicated he’d like approval by June, and that the MOU would allow him to tell the NBA and NHL that Seattle is ready for franchise relocation.

But one advisory board, appointed by McGinn, is asking the mayor and City Council to slow down the process.

The Seattle Freight Advisory Board sent a letter last week saying it has concerns about the recent traffic study commissioned by Hansen (scroll down to read the letter).

“Our board conclusion is that the study carries neither the breadth nor depth to sufficiently weight the likely effects of additional traffic congestion and parking deficits upon general freight movement,” says the letter dated April 26 and signed by Board Chairman Warren Aakervik.  “We, therefore, ask that the mayor’s office and the council refrain from taking additional steps toward any memorandum of understanding with the project sponsor until a more thorough look can be taken.”

The Board says the unanswered question is “whether additional congestion generated by a new arena would further damage the efficiency of marine terminals and rail yards, impair critical waterfront supply traffic between SODO and the Ballard-Interbay industrial areas, or add more delay for trucks bringing in exports from Eastern Washington.”

“We hope you will consider altering the timetable for decision,” the letter says.

Aakervik said by phone late Thursday that he doubted Hansen’s traffic study would show true impacts of 200 dates a year at a SODO arena.  “It would be more than 81 dates a year (for NBA and NHL), and they all wouldn’t start at 7 o’clock,” said Aakervik, owner of Ballard Oil. “What if Microsoft or Boeing want to hold a staff meeting (in the arena)? That won’t happen at night.”

Hansen proposes spending $290 million of private money on the sports complex, which would be owned by the city. The San Francisco-based hedge fund manager has already purchased more than $25 million in property south of Safeco Field, and says he has all the acreage he needs for a sports complex under contract.  Indications are Hansen’s SoDo real estate investment may be closer to $50 million.  He recently agreed to finance a transportation study for the proposed SoDo arena location.

Hansen said by email that it would be premature for him to comment on the Freight Board's letter.  Beth Hester, spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, did not immediately return an email request for comment.

Seattle Freight Advisory Board letter to Mayor re: arena plan

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