SBD/February 17, 2012/Facilities

Seattle Unveils Plan To Build $490M Arena In Hopes Of Luring NBA, NHL Team

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Exec Dow Constantine on Thursday "unveiled what they described as a risk-free proposal to build a half-billion-dollar arena that could bring NBA basketball back to Seattle and attract its first" NHL team, according to a front-page piece by Thompson, Miletich & Heffter of the SEATTLE TIMES. Both officials said that the arena "could be built just south of Safeco Field with $290 million provided by private investors and $200 million in taxes generated by the arena, but that construction would not begin until the investors," led by S.F. hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, are able to secure both NBA and NHL teams. McGinn and Constantine outlined an "investment proposal that calls for no new taxes and, they said, shields the public from risk by requiring investors to make up any revenue shortfall." The deal also would "put the teams on the hook for the public share if one of them left before 30 years." Constantine said that the 18,000-seat arena "would have the third-highest private investment in a professional sports arena anywhere in the country." Hansen, a 44-year-old Seattle native who lives in S.F., has "agreed, along with partners he has not identified, to put forward at least $290 million to build the arena on land he has acquired south of the Safeco Field parking garage." He also would "buy a professional basketball team, and recruit a hockey team." The NBA has said that it "will not expand, making relocation the only means to acquire a franchise." Both leagues have said that they consider Seattle "a desirable location." McGinn said Thursday that he "believes there is a pathway to attracting teams, but did not elaborate." The public's investment would be "capped at $200 million, likely in bonds, and would be repaid through rent paid by the teams and existing tax streams, including sales, property, admissions and business-and-occupation taxes generated by the arena." The city and county "would own the arena and land and lease it back to the investors." Construction of a new arena "would take about two years, but both teams could play temporarily at KeyArena, which a city fact sheet characterized as 'barely breaking even.'" NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he "would be open to using KeyArena as a temporary home" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/17).

EXAMINING THE OPTIONS: An NBA spokesperson said Thursday that there would be "no comment from the commissioner or league officials on the arena developments in Seattle." In Seattle, Danny O'Neil notes Thunder Owner Clay Bennett, who heads the league's seven-owner relocation committee, "was not available for an interview." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday, "There's probably good potential for Seattle as a hockey market. But we are not looking to relocate and we're not looking to expand." O'Neil notes a prospective owner for an NHL franchise in Seattle "has not been identified." AHL Chicago Wolves Owner Don Levin has "expressed interest in bringing" a hockey team to Seattle. But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that "none of the league's discussions with Levin involved" the Coyotes, which the league "hopes to sell to owners who will keep the team in Arizona." Meanwhile, O'Neil notes the city of Sacramento "has until March 1 to submit to the NBA an arena proposal aimed at keeping the Kings in town." If the team "doesn't accept that financing package, the NBA could allow it to move." However, even if the team "were to seek relocation, the Maloof family, which owns the team, has not publicly stated any intention to sell the franchise" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/17). Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, “It’s devastating to lose a team. I was up in Seattle a few weeks ago and I can empathize with the community and certainly with the mayor, but let’s be clear: They’re not going to get the Sacramento Kings” (KING-NBC, 2/16).

THINGS LOOKING UP: In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes under the header, "Seattle Fans Can Get Excited Now, This Arena Deal Looks Solid." The proposal has been "nearly a year in the making, and Hansen and his fellow investors wouldn't be going public if they didn't think the possibilities for an arena and two new teams in town were real." Kelley: "This feels like a deal that will get done. It isn't too good to be true. It's just true" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/17).

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