Behind the scenes: The arena deal

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisDaniels5

KING5.com

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 11:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 5:10 PM

SEATTLE – Two times he was told to his face: No Deal.

That’s what Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess revealed Thursday, about his interaction with Seattle Arena investor Chris Hansen.

The Chair of the Government Performance and Finance Committee says when he first received Hansen’s $490 million dollar arena proposal, “A majority of us concluded this was not enough.”

Burgess, and a source close to the negotiations, confirm both men met for dinner back on July 2nd at a South Lake Union restaurant.  At that time, “I communicated to him it is not going to work – and here’s why – there is not enough public benefit,” says Burgess.

There was still no movement.  Again, Burgess and Hansen met on July 22nd, for breakfast at a Downtown Seattle Hotel. 

“I told him it’s not gonna work,” said Burgess, “That’s when we hit a little logjam in the our discussions with Chris.  I reiterated to him, that these are the principles we’re pursuing, public money for public services and not just private enterprise.”

Hansen relented and agreed several weeks later, to include money in the $490 million dollar deal for transportation ($40 million) and Key Arena ($7 million).  Those funds would come out of the $145 million pool of money which would be bonded by the City, and repaid by Arena revenue and rent, if Hansen can only get one tenant.  It also likely means the hedge fund manager will have to pay more out of pocket to erect the building.

It’s still not enough for some opponents of the plan.  Late Wednesday, Environmental Attorney Peter Goldman, Jordan Royer of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Executive Director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle Dave Gering and Mariners Vice President Bart Waldman sent a letter to Burgess, and the Council, accusing it of paying “lip service” to environmental review laws, and a study of alternative locations.

“We believe the MOU’s pre-selection will prejudice the thoroughness and credibility of the EIS’ alternative site location, will taint its adequacy, and constitutes an impermissible “action” taken without SEPA review,” the letter reads.

Arena proponents were quick to accuse the Mariners of hypocrisy, suggesting a Safeco Field site was pre-selected before an environmental review.

Burgess says he disagrees with the “lip service” assessment, and his committee will likely vote to approve the deal on Thursday.

He says all the work dates back to those two meetings.

“Those two events helped kick us forward, and allowed us to keep going,” says Burgess.

“It’s a win for our port, longshoreman, and manufacturing industrial areas,” he says, “This deal is very different than has happened in different parts of the country.”

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