Developer proposes privately-funded Tukwila arena

Chris Daniels reports.

TUKWILA, Wash. -- Ray Bartoszek is making a new attempt at potentially bringing the NHL to the Seattle-area, and provide some competition for Seattle at the same time.

On Monday, the City of Tukwila released a letter, from Bartoszek's camp, indicating he wanted clarification on zoning in an area known as the "Transit Oriented Development, or TOD district." The letter, dated April 22, said that Bartoszek's holding company, RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment LLC, would build the arena "with private funds."

ESPN's Craig Custance was first to report the news.

Tukwila's TOD district is east of the Green River, between the railroad tracks north of the Sounder Station and east of West Valley Highway.

Bartoszek told KING5 on Monday that he was in "early stages of a potential real estate project" and it was "too early to talk about sports teams."

However, the Greenwich, Connecticut-based investor has made no secret about his love of sports. He's a minority investor in the New York Yankees, and has unsuccessfully made bids to buy the New York Mets and NHL's Arizona Coyotes. He attempted to purchase the Coyotes in 2013 with the intention of moving them to Seattle and had moving trucks on standby ready to make the move. The Coyotes stayed in the desert though, after the Glendale Arizona Council voted to rework their arena arrangement.

Bartoszek, according to sources, is sold on the idea of building a complex next to the existing Sounder train line. The commuter train connects Tacoma, Sumner, Kent, Puyallup, and Tukwila. Bartoszek has several family ties in the region.

However, property records do not show whether Bartoszek has finalized a deal on any land. Former Sonic Fred Brown, NBA legend Bill Russell, and MulvannyG2 President Jerry Lee are all part of his group, although their financial commitment is unclear.

Tukwila released a statement on Monday saying "The City of Tukwila was approached in January of 2014 by developers looking for potential sites for a multipurpose arena. It has been our understanding that Tukwila has been one of multiple sites in the region investigated for this purpose. As a retail and employment hub, with the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest, the City of Tukwila has significant experience dealing with large-scale developments. While the City is supportive of building a multipurpose arena within Tukwila, there are many steps ahead for this project."

A city spokesperson said Tukwila's Community Development department will make a zoning decision, likely within the next couple of weeks.

It also creates a potential wrinkle for Chris Hansen's plans in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood.

Seattle's Department of Planning and Development is finalizing the Environmental Review of the project, and is expected to issue a final report by May 7. The Design Review could be approved by June.

That project, approved in 2012, calls for up to $200 million in private financing if an NBA team is acquired. An NHL-team only scenario would not trigger the same clause. The NBA rebuffed Hansen's attempt to purchase the Sacramento Kings in 2013.

Prospective NHL owner Victor Coleman, who has been working with Hansen on a potential financing plan, said he had no comment today on the Tukwila news. Hansen's spokesperson also declined comment. NHL spokesman Frank Brown said there was "nothing new to add."

Frank Abe, a spokesperson for King County Executive Dow Constantine said, "His goal remains to bring an NHL team to King County and bring back the Sonics."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray added, "I'm committed to doing everything I can to get an NBA and NHL team here in Seattle. And Seattle is absolutely the only place for an NHL and NBA team here in our region.

"As I've said before, I stand by the MOU that the city signed which requires the NBA to commit to Seattle before an arena can be built. But given what we've heard from the NBA, I'm open to the idea of NHL coming to Seattle first. I am ready to listen and would be willing to reconsider the MOU if there is an NHL-first proposal that pencils out for the City."


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