New NBA arena deal struck with city of Seattle; council vote still to come

Sep 11, 2012

Seattle has a new deal for a sports arena to house NBA and NHL teams. If the full council approves the agreement later this month, lead private investor Chris Hansen will then face the possibly tougher job of getting a deal for the teams.

The revised deal has been officially announced by members of the Seattle City Council and addresses concerns by the Port of Seattle and others that traffic generated by events there would clog up the SoDo area.

Seattle councilmembers Sally J. Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien made the announcement.

The Seattle Times reports the key element of the deal centers on building a fund for improving transportation in the corridor.

The city contribution might rise from $120 million to $145 million to finance the transportation fund and KeyArena improvements, but it all still would be repaid by Hansen under the agreement. The county would contribute $80 million if a National Hockey League team is secured, the Times reported.

King County approved its part of the deal in July, at that time city council member Mike O’Brien said the council didn't want 100 percent of the tax money generated by the arena to go toward paying back construction bonds. 

"What we're trying to figure out is how do we adjust this deal a bit so that some of that incremental tax revenue can be available not just for the arena and the land purchase but also for some transportation improvements," O'Brien said then.

According to the Times, that's exactly what happened.

O'Brien said at a news conference that the council also wanted stronger guarantees that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook in case revenue from the arena falls short. The new agreement includes a personal guarantee from Hansen for the bond payments.

"It was important for us to know that somebody that had some deep pockets was willing to put their money on the line and say, `Hey, at the end of the day, if none of this works out, I'm going to guarantee it,'" O'Brien said.

On Monday night, McGinn released a statement, according to Seattlepi.com:

"I welcome the news that the City Council has decided to support bringing basketball back to Seattle," he said. "Executive Constantine and I negotiated a proposal with Chris Hansen, an Arena Review Panel vetted it and the County Council approved it."

McGinn called the council's support the "last piece of the puzzle," and said while there's more to be done, "Sonics fans have a reason to smile today."