SBD/October 16, 2012/Facilities

King County Council Approves Seattle Arena Deal; Could City Be Hockey Hotbed?

The Metropolitan King County (Wash.) Council yesterday “voted unanimously to move forward with a Memorandum of Understanding with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million sports and entertainment venue with $200 million in public funds,” according to Thompson & Young of the SEATTLE TIMES. The Seattle City Council "approved the amended deal on a 7-2 vote." Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Exec Dow Constantine "plan to sign the agreement Tuesday in a ceremony with Hansen and elected officials at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in South Seattle." The signing will set off a "21-day window for legal challenges." The local longshoreman union has said that it will "sue to have the deal killed because it creates 'irreversible momentum' to build the arena in Sodo, in violation of state environmental laws." Hansen will have to "buy an existing team and move it to Seattle, because the NBA has no plans to expand beyond its 30 teams" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). In Seattle, Nick Eaton noted a state-mandated environmental review will "analyze an arena's effect on the Sodo neighborhood, the Port of Seattle, and the surrounding industrial lands." It also will "look at at least one alternative site for a new venue." Those studies are "expected to take about a year." After the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) study is completed, the city and county councils "will have the option to move ahead with the Sodo arena or kill the project in its tracks." The Memorandum of Understanding "covered financial agreements among Hansen's investment group, the city and the county for public help building the new arena." No new taxes "would be created to fund arena construction," and only people who "attend games at the new venue would help pay for it" (SEATTLEPI.com, 10/15).

HOCKEY HOTBED? In Seattle, Master Tesfatsion notes hockey fans "weren't represented in Seattle City Council and Metropolitan King County hearings, but some in the sport say the region could be on the cusp of a hockey explosion if an NHL franchise arrives." Data from research firm Scarborough shows that interest in the NHL is "comparable to at least one other NHL city." Only 9.2% of those surveyed in the Seattle metropolitan area said that they were "somewhat or very interested in the NHL, about the same as Phoenix (10.4)." Yet it is "already higher than interest in MLS before that pro soccer league expanded to Seattle." In '04-05, 7.1% from Seattle said that they were "somewhat or very interested in MLS." That number has "more than doubled to 17.2 percent, and Sounders FC has been a stunning hit here, breaking MLS attendance records." Seattle's interest in the NHL "is now close to the NBA (12.5 percent), the other pro sport expected to share" the proposed $490M arena (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16).
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