SBD/February 6, 2012/Facilities

Seattle Making Progress On New Arena, Looking To Lure Back NBA

A wealthy S.F. hedge-fund manager and officials in the Seattle mayor's office “have been working behind the scenes for eight months to bring an NBA team back to the city as early as next fall and build a new arena,” according to e-mails and documents cited by Miletich & Thompson in a front-page piece for the SEATTLE TIMES. Documents from a Dec. 13 meeting agenda “provide the first glimpse of how the largely unknown hedge-fund manager, 44-year-old Seattle native Christopher Hansen, approached the city about his desire to buy an NBA team and build an arena south of Safeco Field.” In an initial e-mail “laying out his vision, Hansen told city officials an arena could be built with minimal impact on taxpayers.” Hansen in a June 16 e-mail to Mayor Mike McGinn’s Chief of Staff Julie McCoy and the mayor’s Dir of Policy & Operations Ethan Raup said, “I really appreciate it and look forward to making this happen in Seattle. I genuinely mean that and am confident that with a little effort and creativity we can find a solution that meets our needs and the City's/State's desire to get a team back to Seattle without a large public outlay." The agenda also included “discussion of KeyArena, where the Seattle Sonics played before owner Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City in 2008 after failing to secure a new arena.” No details were listed on the agenda, but KeyArena “could be used as a temporary home for a new team with the permission of the NBA, which considered it an unsuitable permanent venue even before the Sonics departed.” Although the documents “don't mention how Seattle would obtain a team, they show the city has been following developments in Sacramento, which is under a March 1 deadline to come up with a viable proposal to build an arena” for the Kings. No final offer from Hansen's group “has been presented to the city.” McGinn Saturday said he is taking the proposal "very seriously," but does not want the city to be left "holding the bag" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/5).

MAKING PROGRESS
: In Seattle, Steve Kelley wrote four seasons after the Sonics left Seattle and became the Thunder, the “possibility of the NBA returning feels more real than ever.” Kelley: “What if the group that includes former Sonics president Wally Walker can accumulate enough property south of Safeco Field and gain a few concessions from the Seattle City Council (an increase in the hotel-motel tax, a surcharge on tickets) to build an arena that will be predominantly privately funded?” Rapid progress “has been made,” and McGinn has been “among those championing the idea” (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/5).
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