Local King County Council representatives split on arena deal

July 31, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10 a.m. July 31, 2012

The local representatives on the King County Council, Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn, came down on opposite sides Monday as the council approved a key agreement for a $490 million arena — a linchpin in the plan to bring professional basketball back to Seattle.

Kathy Lambert

Reagan Dunn

The council agreed to contribute up to $80 million for a proposed Seattle arena near Safeco Field — if investors can secure NBA and NHL franchises. The county contribution is capped at $5 million if only professional basketball comes to the arena.

In a 6-3 decision, after hours of testimony from the public and several amendments from council members, Lambert and others agreed to support the arena pact. Dunn, and councilmen Larry Phillips and Pete von Reichbauer, dissented.

(Lambert represents Issaquah proper and Northeast King County; Dunn represents rural areas south of Issaquah, Newcastle and Southeast King County.)

The proposal heads next to the Seattle City Council for consideration.

The amendments the council added to the agreement include a detailed economic analysis to determine the arena’s impact, strengthened language about pedestrian access to the arena and outlined plans for the basketball team to work to retain the SuperSonics name, among other provisions.

ArenaCo agreed to pay for the independent economic analysis and provide pedestrian access to the facility. The organization must also adopt a community benefit agreement to reach out to community groups impacted by the arena.

“Today’s decision opens the door to a process that will involve a number of steps and many additional opportunities for evaluation and public comments,” Lambert said in a statement. “The realization of this arena still revolves around the successful acquisition of a team. If an opportunity becomes available, we will be prepared to take advantage of the economic and cultural benefits an arena could contribute to our region. This is an example of public-private partnerships that allow many diverse opportunities and benefits with no new general tax dollars.”

Dunn and the other dissenting voters questioned the arena’s potential impact on the nearby Port of Seattle.

“As I have said from the beginning of this process, I strongly support bringing NBA basketball back to Seattle along with an NHL franchise,” Dunn said in a statement. “I was unable to support the arena proposal in its current form. I have many reservations about the proposed location, including the arena’s potential impact on existing businesses, future growth at the Port of Seattle, and local transportation infrastructure. Recent statements by a super-majority of the Seattle City Council, the Port of Seattle and our state’s transportation leaders are also reasons for further study.”

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

“This proposal is likely the best our region will ever get to bring back the Sonics and lure an NHL team,” Constantine said in a statement Monday. “The unprecedented financial model used for this proposal provides strong protections for the public, minimizes financial risk, and is far different from those used for the region’s past stadiums.”

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