King County councilman calls for vote on arena proposal

June 22, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 a.m. June 22, 2012

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer called for the Seattle arena proposal to go before voters as the $490 million project proceeds.

The announcement came Tuesday as arena investor Chris Hansen answered questions for the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. Members asked about the proposed arena size, why the arena plan must be agreed to before a basketball or hockey team is purchased, ticket costs for county residents, and — if public financing is needed — Hansen’s willingness to put the proposal to King County voters.

“Chris Hansen’s personal passion for basketball and his commitment to bringing back the Sonics makes him the best advocate for this arena proposal,” von Reichbauer said in a statement issued after the meeting. “My job is to be the best advocate for the taxpayers of South King County and enable them to express their views on the matter by providing the opportunity to vote on the proposal to build this third arena in the Sodo area.”

In May, County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, joined by Hansen, a San Francisco hedge fund manager, announced agreements between the county, city and the ArenaCo investment group to govern financing for a proposed arena near Safeco Field in Seattle.

The agreement is the initial step to bring professional basketball and hockey teams to the region.

In order for the agreement to proceed, King County Council and Seattle City Council members must sign off on the proposal.

The amount of public support is capped at $120 million if organizers secure only the NBA franchise. The total could rise to $200 million if the NHL is added to the equation.

“Seattle has a long and proud history of professional men’s basketball and hockey, as illustrated by the SuperSonics’ 1979 NBA championship and the Seattle Metropolitans winning the Stanley Cup in 1917. I would like nothing more than to play a part in bringing these sporting activities back to the region,” Issaquah-area County Councilman Reagan Dunn said in a statmeent. “That said, as a representative of the taxpayers I will continue to carefully evaluate this proposal as we move forward to determine if the county’s interests and thus our taxpayers are protected prior to making a decision either way.”

Committee members also heard from the independent panel formed by County Councilman Joe McDermott, Budget and Fiscal Management Committee chairman, to analyze the arena plan.

“Today’s discussion was a productive one and continues the robust analysis that this committee and the council as a whole are undertaking to evaluate this proposal,” McDermott said. “I appreciate Mr. Hansen addressing council members’ questions and I particularly appreciate our independent panel for providing their time and expertise as we review the proposal before us.”

The committee scheduled special meetings on the arena proposal.

The initial special meeting is 9:30 a.m. June 28 and the other is 1:30 p.m. July 12. The public can attend the meetings or watch live on King County TV, Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22.

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