The Northwest took a Shawn Kemp-size step toward getting the NBA back today, as well as the NHL.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that they have received a proposal from Seattle native and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen to build a $500 million arena in the city's SoDo District.
Located south of Century Link and Safeco Fields, the arena would house a National Basketball Association team, as well as an National Hockey League team.
The announcement comes more than three years after out-of-town owner Clay Bennett moved the Seattle Supersonics franchise to Okahoma City after more than 40 years in the Northwest.
The proposal for a new arena, as outlined by officials during a press conference today, would be paid for via a $290 million investment from Hansen.
The rest of the arena's costs would be paid for via a combination of tax revenues generated by the new facility, and property and rental income paid by the teams, according to McGinn's office.
"This is great news for Seattle," said McGinn in a press release. "On first look, we have an exciting proposal that, if successful, would mean hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in our city - an investment that means even more during our city's fragile economic recovery. And I think that the work by City and County staff, combined with outside expertise on arena financing, have resulted in a proposal that protects our city general fund from any negative impacts and protects the city into the future, should there be any revenue shortfalls. And more work needs to be done."
"When someone comes forward and offers to put up nearly $300 million of private money and bring the NBA back to the city of his birth - that's something you have to look at very seriously," Executive Constantine said. "I strongly support returning NBA basketball to King County and, particularly these days, such a proposal would need to be self-funding. On first read, it appears Mr. Hansen's proposal meets that requirement, but we're asking our review panel to make sure."
The proposal is expected to have its share of detractors, everyone from residents concerned about additional traffic and property taxes to former NBA fans who still feel spurned by the NBA after the Sonics left.
It also has prompted some speculation on how Tacoma could play into the sports picture by possibly temporarily housing a hockey team.
There's also a matter of which NBA or NHL team would relocate to Seattle, as neither league is looking to expand. The Sacramento Kings - with Tacoma native and Curtis High Isaiah Thomas - has been viewed as the frontrunner for relocation, although some in that city are working to keep the team.
But McGinn and Constantine both said acquiring a team is Hansen's responsibility.
Instead, they stressed the how the deal could benefit taxpayers. On the outset, a new arena would require no new taxes, and any public funding would come money that wouldn't otherwise be generated without a new arena.
The deal, officials said, had to adhere to the following principles:
-A new arena must be self-funding, and not rely on new taxes;
-Existing city and county funds and services would not be adversely impacted;
-Private investors would bear risk against revenue shortfalls;
-Any project cost overruns will be the responsibility of private investors;
-Private funding should be provided for a study of ways that Key Arena can be modified to keep it a financially successful part of Seattle Center.
McGinn and Constantine have directed an advisory panel they appointed to review the financing and other details of the proposal to ensure that the proposal is in the best interest of the public. The Panel is asked to submit its findings and report to the County Executive and Mayor in March. The Panel will be comprised of the following members:
Jan Drago, co-chair - former Seattle and King County Councilmember
Maud Daudon, co-chair - CEO and President of Seattle Northwest Securities
Corporation; former Seattle deputy mayor and chief of staff
Lenny Wilkens, co-chair - NBA Hall of Famer and former SuperSonics coach
David Freiboth - executive secretary of the ML King County Labor Council
Doris Koo - former president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners
Karen Lee - CEO of Pioneer Human Services
Estela Ortega - executive director of El Centro de la Raza
Greg Smith - founder and CEO of Urban Visions
Anthony R. Miles - partner in the Seattle law office of Stoel Rives LLP
Dr. Jill Wakefield - Chancellor of Seattle Community Colleges
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