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Seattle arena investor can now shop for team

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012

SEATTLE (AP) — Chris Hansen has a ticket to shop.

His list is short: Find an NBA franchise willing to sell and bring professional basketball back to Seattle.

Hansen, the investor trying to build a new arena, said Thursday that the league has been closely watching what's taking place in the Pacific Northwest and a renegotiated memorandum of understanding between Hansen and the city council on the proposed arena goes a long way to easing the league's concerns about Hansen's plan.

"It means a lot to the NBA," Hansen said. "They've been watching very close to what we're doing. I think going in they were very skeptical we would get to this point given our history in Seattle.

"It's a great win for the city with the league."

Hansen spoke at a bar in Seattle's Pioneer Square shortly before an event where he invited fans to come celebrate the agreement announced earlier this week and have their first beer on him.

While the green-and-gold celebration was just getting under way, a short distance away a council committee was voting to advance the renegotiated agreement to the full city council for a vote that is expected to happen Sept. 24. The agreement must receive full approval from the city council and the King County council.

Even some members of the city council showed up at the bar following the committee vote, along with a huge throng of Sonics fans hoping to see the franchise return sooner than later. Hansen cautioned it might not be a quick process and what might be the most difficult task — team acquisition — is just beginning.

Asked if there could be a franchise in Seattle next year, Hansen didn't want to be overly optimistic.

"I think it's conceivable, that would be optimistic and that is not an expectation I would not want to set," he said. "I worry that people are expecting us to get this deal done and it be like magic and a team would be here this year. It's like, 'Poof and we've got a deal done and where is our team?' This is a far more difficult process. I think anybody who is intimately familiar with the NBA knows this is a tough next face we have to go through."

The revised deal first leaked late Monday night and was announced by a trio of city councilmembers on Tuesday night. Hansen said his phone erupted when the news leaked and he stayed up until 1 a.m. listening to a Seattle sports radio station take phone calls from excited fans.

Hansen said the demands of the council pushed him and his investors past the point that they were probably prepared to go financially, but they decided it was in the best interest of the community to drop a few more dollars into the agreement.

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