King County Council hears from outside panel about arena plan

July 12, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4:30 p.m. July 12, 2012

The outside panel tasked to advise the King County Council about a $490 million arena proposal outlined possible risks and benefits related to the project in a committee meeting Thursday.

The group of experts and the council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee met to discuss the proposal to build a sports and entertainment arena in Seattle near Safeco Field.

The outside panel is comprised of members versed in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation.

During the presentation to the committee, Bill Beyers, a University of Washington geography professor, argued for the importance of a complete economic impact study.

Councilman Bob Ferguson suggested conducting such a study if the arena proposal proceeds.

“I’m hopeful that we can address these concerns through amendments like Councilmember Ferguson’s call for a further economic analysis if we move forward,” said Councilman Joe McDermott, the committee chairman.

The panel is reviewing the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, among the county, Seattle and the investment group led by Chris Hansen.

In May, county and city leaders, joined by Hansen, proposed a $490 million sports and entertainment arena for professional basketball and hockey.

The proposed agreement caps the amount of support at $120 million in public bonds if organizers secure only the NBA franchise. The total could rise to $200 million if the NHL is added to the equation. The proposal calls for operators to then pay back the bonds through rents and taxes generated by the arena.

“No public-private partnership is risk-free, but the proposed arrangement protects taxpayer’s interests in ways that many other partnerships have not,” UW associate professor Justin Marlowe, a panelist, said in a statement.

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