King County Council starts to delve into arena proposal

May 29, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 11:55 a.m. May 29, 2012

King County Council members tapped a panel of experts to guide the council and offer independent analysis as officials review a proposal to build a $490 million Seattle sports and entertainment arena.

Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee members held the initial hearing on the arena proposal Tuesday. Members discussed the timeline for arena construction and possible costs to taxpayers, in addition to the terms outlined in the proposal.

Committee Chairman Joe McDermott announced the expert panel. The panel is comprised of members versed in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation.

“The panel’s participants have graciously volunteered their time and expertise to help us fully understand the benefits and risks of this proposal,” McDermott said in a statement. “This is a comprehensive panel — with skeptics among it.”

The members include Justin Marlowe, a professor at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs; urban developer Steve Orser; UW geography professor Bill Beyers; economist Dick Conway; Tracey Thompson, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 117; Charlie Howard, transportation planning director for the Puget Sound Regional Council; and former state Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald.

In February, investor Christopher Hansen presented to Seattle and King County a proposal to construct the arena to host NBA and NHL teams.

Hansen, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, announced a proposed agreement May 16.

The terms of the agreement outline the county role in the proposed arena project. The authorizing legislation reached the council May 22.

The amount of public support for the arena is capped at $120 million if organizers secure only the basketball franchise. The total could rise to $200 million if a hockey team is added to the equation.

“For many fans this proposal is a reason to have great hope that the Sonics will play in Seattle again. As exciting as that possibility is, many questions remain,” McDermott said. “The council is committed to fully vetting the proposed legislation.”

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