skip navigation
Support KUOW

Seattle City Council Weighs Two Arena Reports

Kate Elston

The Seattle City Council Thursday heard the findings of two reports regarding the proposed basketball arena. How the council interprets these reports will likely determine whether the plan is approved.


The main question presented to the City Council is whether or not Initiave–91 applies to the arena plan. I–91 was a voter–backed law in 2006 that says for a sports arena to go up, Seattle must get money back. It's called "fair value."

A report prepared by council staff looked into whether the arena can go forward under I–91. The conclusion: it depends.

The report says that the definition of "fair value" involves a complex weighing of how you define and calculate return. It also depends on how you calculate the city's risk.

Chris Hansen, the hedge–fund manager behind the stadium, has said that his proposal can go ahead under I–91. But Chris Van Dyk disagrees; he's the crafter of I–91. He says having taxes fund the arena bonds goes against the initiative.

Van Dyk: "It's sort of like saying, if I own a restaurant, I get to take all my taxes and pay for my restaurant, pay the cost for the construction of my restaurant. Sorry folks, in a fair world, it just doesn't work that way."

Van Dyk also says under I–91's language, any Seattle citizen could sue the city if this arena plan goes forward. It's now up to the council to interpret I–91 to determine if the stadium gets the green light.

Nick Licata is one of the council members who has raised concern about the plan in recent weeks.

Licata: "We're using public dollars, we don't want to put them at risk. That's where I think where all the council members are coming from."

Licata was also wary of the other staff report presented to the council Thursday. That report found that Chris Hansen and his hedge–fund group would still need to pay up to $120 million more to cover the project. Councilman Licata says that raised some red flags.

Licata: "I mean that just shows there's gonna be a significant risk — what happens if they don't contribute that money?"

Chris Hansen has said the city estimates are off. He also has assured the city that if there ever were a shortfall, his company would pay the difference. The council will now take those two reports into consideration and will vote on the stadium proposal sometime in August.

I'm Kate Elston with KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW