King County Council approves amended arena proposal

October 16, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. Oct. 16, 2012

King County and Seattle leaders granted unanimous approval Monday to proceed on a Seattle sports and entertainment arena.

King County Council members approved the final memorandum of understanding and interlocal agreement among the county, Seattle and investor Chris Hansen’s ArenaCo. The decision by the council — and the Seattle City Council’s decision to adopt the memorandum of understanding and interlocal agreement Monday — is a key step in the effort to bring professional basketball and hockey teams to the region.

The agreement allows for up to $200 million in public dollars to finance a $490 million arena near Safeco Field.

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

“This agreement supports the private property rights of an investor who is contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to an economic development opportunity for the entire region,” King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, Issaquah’s representative, said in a statement. “This public-private partnership is an opportunity for bringing the SuperSonics back to Seattle, as well as attracting a professional hockey team.”

Lambert also highlighted potential benefits to the economy from arena construction and operation.

“By leveraging King County’s bonding authority, backed by revenue from events at the arena, this would give the county and the city of Seattle a new asset once the construction cost is paid off, bolster our economy and generate many jobs for our region,” she added.

In July, King County Council members approved earlier versions of arena documents. Seattle City Council members amended the county’s agreement last month and, for the last three weeks, representatives from the county, city and ArenaCo discussed the final proposal.

Issaquah-area King County Councilman Reagan Dunn voted against the proposal in July, but approved the updated version Monday.

“I was optimistic from the outset that we could all work together to come up with an agreement that would be supported by all parties,” he said in a statement. “Should an arena ultimately be built in the Sodo neighborhood, the inclusion of the Sodo transportation fund in this agreement places a much needed emphasis on protecting freight mobility. In addition to the increased financial protections for the taxpayers, I believe this is a much stronger agreement, since amended and it will help to accelerate the return of the NBA to our region.”

Future action is needed by both councils after completion of environmental and economic reviews to determine whether to approve the transactional documents to commit public financing.

King County Executive Dow Constantine thanked other elected officials for approving the arena legislation.

“I congratulate all the elected officials whose thoughtful, deliberative work led to approval of the arena legislation,” he said in a statement. “This shows that we can have meaningful, productive review without becoming mired in the old ‘Seattle Process.’ Today we took a huge step toward that day when we will all cheer the tipoff of a new Sonics season.”

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