Well-connected aides drive Seattle arena deal

ANDREW McINTOSH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:25 PM ET

SEATTLE - Mayor Mike McGinn and billionaire businessman Christopher Hansen have hired a slew of top consultants and specialists to work on Seattle's new arena development project.

According to documents QMI Agency obtained from the City of Seattle under the Washington State Public Records Act, the key players include:

New Jersey sports stadium consultant Carl Hirsh (Stafford Sports LLC). Seattle hired Hirsh for $19,500 a month to help drive the project and represent the city in securing a financing deal with Hansen's Valiant Capital.

Stafford has been working on the arena project since last summer and has travelled to Seattle several times for closed-door meetings, the documents show.

Consultant David Perez, a veteran real estate development and financial executive with arena developer and manager International Facilities Group of Chicago.

Perez and IFG have worked on developing aspects of large dual-purpose basketball and hockey arena projects such as the American Airlines Center in Dallas, home to the NBA's Mavericks and the NHL's Stars. That arena, which cost $420 million in 2001, seats 19,548 for basketball and 18,004 for hockey and has 128 suites.

Another project IFG was involved in was the Pepsi Center in Denver, which is home to the NBA's Nuggets and the NHL's Avalanche. IFG worked for the lenders who backed the arena project, which cost $160 million in 1999.

Perez has been discussing public-private partnerships with Mayor McGinn's staff during private meetings, the documents show.

Perez also worked on the project to develop the Glendale, Ariz., arena (now known as Jobing.com Arena), home of the NHL's Coyotes. IFG worked for the city during the negotiations, design and construction of the Glendale arena.

The insider Phoenix knowledge could boost Hansen's efforts to get a hockey franchise to Seattle.

Veteran Seattle lawyer Hugh Spitzer, with the powerful Foster Pepper firm.

Spitzer is a sports franchise lawyer and bond specialist. The city of Seattle hired him last September to work on the arena project. One contract described his work as "Phase 1 initial financial and legal analysis by each of the parties with some interaction but without intensive negotiations." Spitzer bills the city $360 an hour.

Spitzer is known for structuring public-private partnerships and what his website calls "intergovernmental co-operative arrangements."

Foster Pepper has become a significant player in sports facility development and financing projects across North America, and represents several teams and pro athletes, including the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders FC of MLS.


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