Elected officials to outline plan for new Seattle arena




Posted on February 15, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 16 at 4:23 PM

SEATTLE - City officials could announce the framework of a new sports entertainment complex in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood at a news conference scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

KING 5 has learned Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen are still working to finalize a term sheet.  A high ranking county leader said  the deal currently includes substantial private financing, with some debt backed by the city and King County, to repaid through admission fees and “arena generating revenue.”  

The final terms are expected to be hammered out Thursday morning, and some council members were being briefing individually prior to the announcement.  McGinn and Constantine planned to make a "major announcement" at 2 p.m. Thursday, though officials have yet to confirm what the announcement is about.

Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who was among those briefed, called it a "win-win" proposal, but also said the deal is "very complicated." It's a land deal under Initiative 91. It has to be profitable for the city; at the same time the investor wants some protections on his investment.

A new Seattle citizens advisory group is also being formed to examine the proposed arena's financial impact on the public.

As KING5 first reported back in December, Hansen’s Valiant Partners of San Francisco purchased a three acre piece of property south of Safeco Field, for $21 Million.  A city hall source with knowledge of the negotiations said late Wednesday that the city would not have to claim eminent domain and Hansen likely secured more property.

WATCH: Chris Hansen interview with The Seattle Times


It’s unclear who will appear at the press conference.  Late Wednesday, sources were conflicted about whether Hansen would show.  Constantine, and McGinn are both expected to be in attendance.

The term sheet would still need council approval.  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, a Seattle native, 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.”

Deal could bring NBA, NHL to Seattle

A possible deal could bring NBA basketball and NHL hockey to Seattle. The speculation will naturally turn to potential franchises to fill the building.  The NBA has given Sacramento until the end of the month to come up with a financing plan or face potential relocation of the Kings.  The NBA also owns the New Orleans Hornets, and is looking for a buyer.  

Meanwhile, Don Levin, part owner of AHL Chicago Wolves, told KING 5 Thursday, "If they get this done, I'm definitely interested in being part of it."

The NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes are also owned by the NHL, which rescued the team from bankruptcy court.  The league says it needs a new local buyer by the end of this season or the Coyotes could relocate.  

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who told KING 5 last year about a group interested bringing a team to the city, declined comment via e-mail Wednesday night.  NBA spokesperson Tim Frank did the same.

Seahawks owner Paul Allen released the following statement regarding the announcement:

It was a sad day when the Sonics left Seattle, a move I opposed. It’s exciting to think about the NBA coming back to Seattle and renewing the rivalry with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, it is too early for me to comment any further without a specific plan or proposal to review.

If Seattle gets a new sports arena, what do you think it should be called? Comment on our Facebook page.

KING 5's Linda Brill contributed to this report.