SBD/April 6, 2012/Facilities

Hansen Paying For Traffic, Parking Study For Proposed Seattle Arena Site

S.F. hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, who wants to build an NBA arena in Seattle, is paying for a $50,000 traffic and parking study to "help answer critics who say the arena threatens blue-collar jobs in Seattle's industrial area," according to a front-page piece by Emily Heffter of the SEATTLE TIMES. Hansen Thursday appeared with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Exec Dow Constantine in Hansen's "first news conference since details of his proposal were released in February." Hansen said that he "already has several yet-unnamed local investors interested in joining him to bring an NBA franchise to Seattle" and help build a $490M, 18,000-seat arena. Hansen: "There's a certain amount of capital investment we're willing to put in this area." Heffter reports as details of his investment and proposal "continued to trickle out this week, the first organized opposition to the arena surfaced." The Mariners "expressed concern about scheduling and traffic, and the Port of Seattle and others in the local maritime industry said adding another sports venue to Seattle's industrial core threatens thousands of blue-collar jobs." Hansen said that he is "committed to the site he selected in Sodo." McGinn also "believes Sodo is a good fit for the new arena." It is "already zoned for a stadium, and transit access and nearby parking make it accessible." Hansen said Thursday, "One hundred percent, there's issues with our site. Yes. There's issues with every site. I can't manufacture a site out of thin air with no issues on it." Hansen also asserted that it is "an investment he could afford without partners." He said, "I could probably do the whole thing myself, but I wouldn't." Hansen added that the deal "could go forward without a hockey team, and that it was 'highly likely' the arena could be built with only a basketball team signed and hopes for a hockey team later" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/6).

OBJECTION OVERRULED: In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes the Mariners' "orchestrated objections ... are contentious and obstructionist." The Mariners are "worried about the competition that a new arena will bring to the area, not the congestion." Kelley notes apparently the Mariners "finally figured out the magnitude of their public-relations blunder Thursday." In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the team "sounded downright neighborly." Hansen "agrees there would be traffic congestion on those rare times the Mariners would have conflicting home dates with an NBA or NHL team." But he said, "People will tolerate a little bit of traffic for the ability to go to concerts and see professional basketball and see professional hockey." He added, "People are excited, but they probably expect it to happen sooner than it might. But I think something will happen in the next five years" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/6). Mariners President & COO Chuck Armstrong cited traffic concerns with the arena and said, "Our view is that Hansen, if he built it in that location, he would rue the day he did it." In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote while the Mariners did "raise valid concerns, it comes across as silly, maybe even petty, to listen to a sports franchise with a publicly funded stadium complain this much about another project." The Mariners "say they are all for the NBA and NHL coming to Seattle, but not in their 'hood." They "don't want the congested Sodo area to become unbearable." Brewer: "They have a point. Problem is, it's a molehill issue that isn't worth it for them." The Mariners "sound like stingy, grumpy old men yelling for Hansen to get off their lawn." Brewer wrote, "Even worse, they risk alienating far more fans than they already have during this decadelong dry spell" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/5).
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