Seattle group offers private financing for SODO arena

VIDEO: Seattle group offers private financing for SODO arena

A new proposal for a Seattle arena indicates that principal investor Chris Hansen and his partners are open to forgoing $200 million in public money to build in the SODO neighborhood.

In a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and the Seattle City council, Hansen and partners wrote that economic considerations led them to suggest a new proposal in bring the NBA back to Seattle.

"Our partnership with the City and County started five years ago and was based on a recognition that private financing of a new arena in the prevailing economic conditions was not economically feasible. The goal of this partnership was to build the Arena and bring an NBA team to Seattle. Public financing was simply a mechanism that made that possible at the time," the letter said.
"We have concluded that a changed economic climate makes possible the private financing of the arena. For that reason, and to address concerns expressed by city council members, we would consider revising the street vacation petition to eliminate public financing of the arena."

>> Scroll down to read full letter

The offer, signed by Chris Hansen, Wally Walker, and Pete and Erik Nordstrom, could be a major turning point in Hansen’s attempt to bring a professional basketball and/or hockey team to the city.

Instead of using the $200 million needed in public money to pay for the project, they are offering to pay for the arena themselves, and contribute millions to the Lander Street overpass to improve freight mobility.

The new arena offer might satisfy critics who didn't want any public financing, but opposition remains strong at the Port of Seattle.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said the new circumstances "do not fundamentally change what our objections are to an arena in that location."

City councilmembers who voted in May against vacating part of Occidental Avenue for the arena cited concerns raised by the port about further clogging traffic and hindering good-paying jobs on the waterfront.

John Creighton, Port of Seattle Commission President, said Hansen's offer to end his Memorandum of Understanding with the city and county "gives everyone an opportunity to hit the refresh button" to look at alternative sites.

Conditions of the offer are that the city agrees to vacate a one-block stretch of Occidental Avenue and include several more tax credits.

The street vacation was a major hiccup in May, when the city council voted 5-4 to reject the vacation proposal.

Taxpayers have played major parts in subsidizing the city’s sports arenas — CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field– and helped pay for a renovation to Key Arena, which previously housed the Sonics until the team moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

MyNorthwest.com reports there are currently no teams on the cusp of leaving their respective cities, but NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote Monday that he believes the NBA should do right by Seattle and bring the Sonics back as an expansion team.

He writes that, though the league doesn’t need to be watered down any more than it already is, the league is in prime financial condition and that franchises have never been more valuable.

Mayor Murray issued the following statement after receiving a letter from the Chris Hansen-led investment group.

“The City will review the letter sent by a group of stakeholders, including Chris Hansen, suggesting a revision to the previous SODO arena proposal,” said  Murray. “We share the goal of bringing the NBA and NHL to Seattle. The City will continue to consider all options to build a new, state of the art arena that will accomplish that goal and that can serve the city for years to come.”

Below is the full letter from the arena group: 

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