Fans, Hansen celebrate after committee approves SoDo arena plan



SEATTLE - A Seattle City Council committee approved an agreement with investor Chris Hansen over the plan to build a SoDo basketball arena.


The approval came Thursday after maritime and business leaders, including the Mariners, renewed their concerns about the proposed site of the arena, citing "irreversible momentum" behind the site favored by Hansen.


Council members spent two hours going over the fine print of a memorandum of agreement with Hansen before taking a crucial committee vote to pass the deal.


The plan calls for a $490 million arena in the SoDo neighborhood.  The city’s portion would now be as much as $145 million up from the $120 million in the original plan.


Venture capitalist Hansen also puts more on the line, guaranteeing that he will personally pay off the city’s debt if revenues don’t live up to expectations.


Critics worry about the traffic congestion that could hurt the Port of Seattle and the industrial district.


Supporters are worried about jobs as well.


“Over 50,000 hospitality and tourism workers will benefit from a new arena.  Our image nationally, and certainly internationally, will be enhanced,” said Tom Norwalk with the Seattle Visitors Bureau.


“We and others have been forthcoming with many facts and much data concerning the proposed arena in SoDo and the impact on our jobs.  Yes, we want a team, but SoDo is the wrong location,” said John Persak with the Longshoremen's Union.


Council members did add amendments to the agreement to make it clear the SoDo site will have to pass an environmental impact process that will consider other sites such as KeyArena.


However, Hansen has made it clear that his offer applies to just the one site where he has already purchased land in SoDo.


There are many more votes to come at the city and county levels, and with all the environmental work to be done, groundbreaking is at least a year away.


For Hansen and fans who gathered at F.X. McRory's to share a beer on him, that didn't seem to matter.  Hansen gave a brief speech followed by a few words by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.


Seattle has been without an NBA team since new owners moved the Sonics to Oklahoma in 2008.