The Seattle City Council voted 6 to 2 Monday to approve a plan to build a new sports arena in the city's SODO district.
Members of the council signed off on investor Chris Hansen's plan to build a $490 million arena near the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums. The plan calls for $200 million in public investment, but construction would not begin until the project passes environmental review and Hansen secures an NBA franchise.
Hansen also has personally guaranteed to cover the city's debt if the arena's finances don't work out.
Yes votes came from Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, Jean Godden, Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien. Richard Conlin and Nick Licata voted no. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is in Copenhagen on a work-related trip, so was not present for the vote.
Hansen and his partners are also pursuing a professional hockey team for the arena, and sources confirmed to KING 5's Chris Daniels that owner and president of the Edmonton Oilers franchise were in Seattle Monday to evaluate the city as a potential new home for their franchise.
“Council staff, lawyers and councilmembers have worked hard to produce an agreement that protects the city, charts the right site review process and secures appropriate public benefits,” said Council President Sally J. Clark. “Today’s vote closes one phase of tasks and begins another, including work on how we plan for a bright future at Seattle Center.”
Burgess said he switched from being a skeptic after he saw the revised proposal as an opportunity to protect industrial and maritime jobs.
"This is about a can-do spirit looking to the future," he said.
Councilwoman Jean Godden said she is pleased with changes to the memorandum of understanding, and admits changes are open ended, and a bit scary.
But, she said, change has always been a part of Seattle Center.
"We should embrace this opportunity," she said.
But Conlin said the core issues remain -- "We've given up future city taxes."
After the vote, arena investor Chris Hansen issued the following statement:
“Today’s City Council vote marks the culmination of a long and productive negotiation process that started with the Mayor and his staff more than a year ago and more recently with the City Council. I want to thank all of Seattle’s elected officials and their staffs for their willingness to roll up their sleeves and work with us to get us to this point. I think that today’s vote demonstrates that by listening to each other and working hard to address the concerns of all stakeholders that we can make the arena a reality and bring professional basketball and hockey back to Seattle.
“While we still have a long way to go I am heartened by the tremendous level of support this project has enjoyed. I look forward to working with the county council again as they now consider the modified MOU.“
Changes in the plan still must be approved by the King County Council, and it must pass an environmental review. But Hansen said city approval will allow him to start looking for a team that would take the place of the Sonics. After four decades in Seattle, the Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder.