Seattle arena opponents now questioning economic review

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 6 at 7:17 AM

SEATTLE – If this saga was a soap opera, it could be dubbed “As the Basketball Turns”.

There were several developments Tuesday in the battle over the NBA franchise which has filed for relocation to Seattle.

The city’s Downtown Design Review Board approved preliminary designs for the proposed $490 million dollar NBA/NHL Arena. Investor Chris Hansen’s architects made the presentation Tuesday night. The project now advances to a recommendation meeting within a couple of months, which would be a key decision as to whether the city would approve a Master Use Permit.

Hansen’s architects spoke more in depth about plans for a potential bike valet, and a "fin wall," which would serve as an enclosure and electronic reader board for the proposed building. Representatives for Amtrak and the Mariners testified that there had been good progress on the design, but still had questions about safe pedestrian access. The architects said the northwest corner of the building would be the main access point.

The local chapter of the ILWU said it will appeal a judge’s ruling to throw out their lawsuit, which alleged the city and county were violating environmental law.  But the ILWU and other arena opponents are now questioning the economic review, too.

“The study is a sham,” said former Seattle Council member and current Mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck. “It’s being fast tracked and it doesn’t comprehensively examine the economic costs.”  Steinbrueck said there are questions about the potential costs to trucking firms and port related businesses.

“The rents will skyrocket in that area because now we have entertainment and retail,” said ILWU attorney Peter Goldman.

The city hired ProForma advisors of Los Angeles to do the economic analysis. Port workers questions the company’s expertise because its website lists extensive research on theme parks, gaming and resorts, but not maritime and industrial business. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said he’ll ask ProForma to broaden the study to expand the scope of the of the study.

NBA owners won’t vote on the signed purchase agreement for the Kings until April. The franchise has already filed for relocation to Seattle. A well-connected person suggested Tuesday the relocation fee could be “at or near” $75 million. Clay Bennett paid $30 million to the NBA to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008. It’s unclear if the relocation figure is a negotiating point, or why the figure would be higher.

In Sacramento, civic leaders spent the day trying to extol the virtues of the city as it compares to Seattle. Members of “Think Big Sacramento” presented numbers at a news conference, including years of sellout crowds, which it felt showed the strength of the market as compared to Seattle.

"Today's report provides further proof that, pound for pound, Sacramento is one of the strongest performing markets in the NBA, said the task force's executive director Kunal Merchant in a prepared statement, according to the Sacramento Bee.

KING 5's Linda Brill contributed to this story.

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