Issaquah-area representative calls for King County to ‘closely examine’ arena proposal
February 16, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 4:45 p.m. Feb. 16, 2012
King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor McGinn unveiled a proposed public-private partnership Thursday to construct a Seattle arena for professional basketball and hockey teams.
The proposed arena — a $500 million facility, including $290 million from private investors — could host NBA and NHL teams in South Seattle near Safeco Field. Local elected leaders, including Issaquah-area County Councilman Reagan Dunn, lauded the proposal, but said the package needs additional scrutiny.
“As stewards of public money, we must closely examine any plan that seeks King County’s role in financing such a project,” he said in a statement after Constantine and McGinn announced the proposal. “I look forward to learning more about the proposal.”
County Councilman Joe McDermott, budget chairman for the council, said the proposed arena offers potential to create jobs and foster economic development.
“I know there will be many questions moving forward, particularly about the county’s role in any financing,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to examining the proposal in detail.”
Constantine and McGinn said investor Christopher Hansen, a Seattle native, sent a proposal to King County and Seattle to construct the arena. The executive and mayor also appointed a 10-member panel comprised of community leaders and finance experts to study the arena proposal.
“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,” 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.”
Hansen proposed $290 million in private investment for the facility. The proposal calls for Hansen and other investors to bear the costs to acquire the NBA team and seek a partner to recruit the NHL to the facility.
The proposal calls for the remaining arena development and construction costs to be financed by a combination of tax revenues generated by the facility, and property and rental income paid by the teams.
“If successful, we believe our effort would represent one of the largest private investments ever made in a new arena in North America and would provide a significant source of job and economic growth for the region,” Hansen said in the letter.
Constantine and McGinn directed the Arena Advisory Panel to review the financing and other details. The panel is asked to submit a report to the county and city leaders next month.
If a memorandum of understanding can be reached among King County, Seattle and Hansen, a proposal could be considered by the Seattle City Council and the King County Council later in the spring.
The announcement spurred cautious optimism among former Seattle Sonics fans. Owners relocated the team from Seattle to Oklahoma City — and renamed the Sonics as the Thunder — in 2008.
“As a diehard Sonics fan, I long for the days of ‘The Glove,’ Gary Payton, and Seattle’s ‘Reign Man,’ Shawn Kemp,” Dunn said. “I sincerely hope Sonics basketball is in Seattle’s future.”