SEATTLE - Chris Hansen reclines in chair, and seems at ease with the scars suffered in a three year long basketball battle.
We ended up losing $30 million dollars in the process, we thought we had the team moving here. It was tough, losing it, he says, reflecting on his failed purchase and relocation of the NBA's Sacramento Kings. A donation to an Sacramento Anti-Arena campaign also damaged public perceptions.
It was a mistake. I apologized to the people of Sacramento, he counters, There was nothing illegal being done. The law firm representing us, did not handle the donation correctly.
The man who has become the face of the Seattle Arena project, says despite the setbacks, he continues to move forward with it.
We're as resolute as ever. I think Seattle is a great market. Our job is to finish the environmental process and get the Arena shovel ready, and we're very close to that. There are not many hurdles left, he says, claiming the reviews will be done by summer 2014.
Hansen was in Seattle for the Thanksgiving holiday and appeared at a special event on the Eastside. He says he's had meetings, including visiting with Seattle's Mayor-Elect Ed Murray.
I haven't had a chance to meet with the new council member (Sawant). I have had a chance to meet with Murray, and we look forward to working with him, he seems like a reasonable person, said Hansen.
He dismisses recent claims that the project would cost $731 million dollars in public subsidies. A group calling itself Sonics Without Subsidies recently held a press conference, revealing details of a their own study, which said the actual cost to taxpayers of the NBA/NHL arena was higher than Hansen let on.
We've been down this path before. I-91 was a big concern vetted by both city councils, the county council, individual council members, said Hansen.
King County Executive Dow Constantine agrees.
We are going to as the public, profit from the creation of this, we're going to get back more money than we put up, he says. Speaking of Sonics Without Subsidies report, Constantine says I'm sure it's not an accurate number.
Hansen is coy about whether the project could start with an NHL team first. The Memorandum of Understanding only provides public financing if an NBA team is acquired.
The prospects for the NHL are better than the NBA at this point.
However, a source who was in the meeting, says NHL legend Jeremy Roenick was in Seattle on Monday, along with an investment team, to discuss an expansion franchise and working with Hansen. It is believed Roenick wants to be the front man for the NHL franchise. He made an attempt to be part of a group to bring the Phoenix Coyotes to Seattle earlier this year.
The NHL would need to award an expansion franchise to a well heeled group, likely based on another conditional agreement to be a partner with Hansen in a new building. It's unclear how quickly that could all come together, or what it would mean for construction on the project.
I think practically there would have to be some sort of amendment or addendum with an NHL first proposal, said Constantine.
It would only need to be recrafted if the basketball team was not here, by the time we started construction on a new arena. If the hockey team wanted to come here, and play in Key Arena for a couple of years, and wait until we had a basketball team coming, then no it wouldn't need to be recrafted, but to activate the public financing piece, yes, said Hansen.
Hansen has previously admitted to meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
But is there an NBA team available? Milwaukee's Bucks seems to be in the most precarious state, with the Owner Herb Kohl making public comments about the need for a new arena.
We've been very honest and we're not going to go out and be predatory, said Hansen. We're waiting for the right opportunity.