February 16, 2012
Seattle takes step toward NHL, NBA
By ANDREW McINTOSH, QMI Agency
SEATTLE - Political leaders unveiled a $500-million proposal Thursday to build a new arena in Seattle, paving the way for a possible return of an NBA franchise as well as an NHL team.
Details of the arena proposal by billionaire San Francisco fund manager Christopher Hansen -- including a public-private financing deal -- were released by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine, a regional government leader.
Hansen and an unidentified group of investors will raise $290 million to acquire an NBA team and line up a partner to try for an NHL team -- in apparent competition with Quebec City.
Governments will own the land and the arena and put up $200 million.
The public debt would be recovered by charging the pro sports teams rent to use the arena and by charging fans new taxes.
The politicians appointed a review panel of community leaders and financial experts to study the proposal to ensure it protects taxpayers' interests. The committee is to report back in a month.
McGinn and Constantine made it clear Hansen must first secure an NBA franchise or there would be no arena.
McGinn said any deal would include a 30-year clause barring any team relocations.
The project requires approval by members of city council and King County council.
'We've been handed an offer worth looking at ... We'd like to move quickly, deliberately,'' Constantine told reporters, emphasizing that it was only the first step in a long process.
If the project goes ahead, Seattle, like Quebec City, would enter the hunt for any available NHL franchise.
The Pacific Northwest, home of corporate giants Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and Expedia, lost its beloved SuperSonics NBA team to Oklahoma in 2008 -- and the city mourned.
Excitement about Hansen's project -- under development since July 2011 -- has been building for months. The stakes are high for McGinn, whose public approval ratings are low as he begins to prepare for a re-election campaign.
A Hansen company already has bought $21-million worth of land in Seattle's stadium district. That property sits near Safeco (home of MLB's Mariners) and CenturyLink (home of the NFL's Seahawks and Major League Soccer's Sounders) -- and he is rumoured to have lined up more.
Ultimately, the fate of the arena project relies on Hansen's ability to poach an NBA and an NHL franchise from other U.S. cities with arena problems, weak attendance or both.
Speculation is on the NBA's sad-sack Sacramento Kings or the New Orleans Hornets, and the NHL's league-owned Phoenix Coyotes. The owner of the New York Islanders has said he's open to relocation offers.
The NBA has given Sacramento until March 1 to come up with a new arena plan -- or the league could approve a relocation or sale of the team, owned by the wealthy Malouf family.
Hansen has said he would need a partner for any NHL team that relocates to Seattle.
One has already come forward: Don Levine, the wealthy and respected owner of the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.
Levine's team is an affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. The Chicago millionaire owns property on nearby Vancouver Island.