SBD/July 31, 2012/Facilities

King County Approves Seattle Arena Plan, But City Council Wants Traffic Concessions

The Metropolitan King County Council yesterday "approved a plan for a new sports arena," but the Seattle City Council told arena investor Chris Hansen that it "wouldn't move forward unless some of the tax revenue is used for improvements to traffic and freight mobility in Sodo,” according to a front-page piece by Thompson & Young of the SEATTLE TIMES. The City Council also “held out hope that successful negotiations with Hansen could be wrapped up within a week, clearing the way for a majority of council members to approve a deal in August" to build a new $490M arena with $200M in public financing. The King County Council “approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hansen by a 6-3 vote.” The MOU is “legally binding and sets a framework for a final deal that would be hammered out by the county, city and Hansen.” The agreement now must “get approval from the City Council, which has been more critical” (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/31). The AP’s Tim Booth wrote if the Seattle City Council’s actions are any indication, the arena plan has “plenty of adjustments and changes yet to come.” Eight of nine Seattle council members “unveiled a letter to Hansen saying changes must be made to the proposal before they could support it.” Traffic concerns in the Sodo neighborhood -- where Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and the Port of Seattle “all share limited space -- have been at the core of arguments against Hansen's plan” (AP, 7/30).

: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes, “To his credit, Hansen has sought fair from the beginning, and he has pledged $290 million of private money to prove it." That is why Hansen "has made it this far, because his group's willingness to pay for nearly 60 percent of a $490 million arena is a stunning commitment in modern-day pro sports business.” Brewer: "If you're for the arena and have been impressed by the measures Hansen took upfront to make this a good deal for both parties, then it's impossible to resist outrage that the city council is asking Hansen to fix too many of the city's problems.” The city council had “better be careful with this negotiation.” It would be "negligent and unfair for the city council to ram a deal through without concern and some level of mitigation for traffic and freight mobility in Sodo." It also would be "foolish and unfair to toss away such a sweet deal from Hansen simply because of an issue that he didn't create.” Hansen is “willing to do his part,” but his group “won’t be a magic ATM” (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/31).
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