Seattle City Council approves new arena deal

Associated Press Modified: September 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm •  Published: September 24, 2012
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SEATTLE (AP) — A wealthy hedge-fund manager won approval Monday for his plan to bring professional men's basketball and hockey back to Seattle, with initially skeptical City Council members agreeing to put up $200 million for a new arena after he promised to personally guarantee the city's debt.

Council members voted 6-2 to approve Chris Hansen's plan for a $490 million arena near the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums south of downtown.

"I was a skeptic when this came forward because I was worried about our taxpayers," said Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw. "The fact that we have a personal guarantee from Mr. Hansen ... that makes a big difference.

"At the end, we're going to have something the city is proud of."

Seattle hasn't had an NBA team since 2008, when the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, devastating their fans here. It's been quite a bit longer since Seattle had major-league hockey: The Metropolitans, who won the Stanley Cup in 1917, disbanded in 1924.

The Edmonton Oilers is one NHL team already discussing possible relocation to Seattle after plans for a proposed $475 million arena in Edmonton were thrown into doubt earlier this month.

Though the franchise said it still hopes to reach a deal with Edmonton on a new arena, owner Daryl Katz, team president Patrick LaForge and Kevin Lowe, president of hockey operations, were in Seattle for meetings Monday about a possible relocation.

The Oilers said in a statement that the team is listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets.

Hansen, of San Francisco, is a Seattle native, an early investor in Facebook and a big Sonics fan who approached Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn last year in hopes of building a new arena to attract an NBA team and hopefully an NHL team as well. KeyArena, where the Sonics played, is considered outdated and financially unviable. The $200 million in public financing would be repaid by arena-related taxes.

The deal Hansen worked out with the mayor's office met with resistance at City Council, where members worried about the effect of more traffic in what is a crucial shipping corridor, thanks to the nearby Port of Seattle, and about creating competition for the publicly owned KeyArena, which turned a profit last year.



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