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Seattle City Council Expected To Pass Sodo Arena Proposal

Amy Radil
09/24/2012

The plan for an NBA arena in Sodo is expected to advance at the Seattle City Council Monday. City councilmembers negotiated this version of the deal with Chris Hansen, the hedge–fund manager who proposes building the arena and buying an NBA team. Amy Radil reports.

TRANSCRIPT

This new agreement entails more risks for both parties in order to fund road improvements in Sodo. The new deal could require more public money, or it could take money away from Hansen.

The impact of a new Sodo arena on local roads and bridges has been a big concern for everyone doing business at the nearby Port of Seattle.

Back in April, arena backer Chris Hansen was asked at a press conference in Sodo whether he and fellow investors would pay for infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood. That day, Hansen implied that his contribution was finite.

Hansen: "I'm not going to say no, but you know, I think we look at our deal holistically, is maybe the best way I can say it. There's a certain amount of capital investment that we're willing to put in this area, it's somewhat fungible about what goes where."

That was his answer in April. But what's his answer now?

Tim Burgess: "Through our negotiations with him, he became amenable to adjustments."

That's Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess.

One of those 'adjustments' has Hansen making up for any shortfall in public money for transportation improvements. Initially, tax revenues would be allocated to a $40 million fund. That money would help freight and pedestrians move around Sodo.

But city estimates indicate that the fund will be short in four years by $16 million. If that happens, Hansen will forfeit $16 million to make up for it.

Again, Tim Burgess:

Burgess: "And I think we can now show that we're using public money both to create this opportunity — new tax flows coming from the arena, but to use some of those funds to solve the transportation problems. And Chris realized that and was willing to make that agreement with us."

Hansen would only lose that money if Seattle gets a hockey team as well as a basketball team. If the arena only gets a basketball team, the public would make up that shortfall, not Hansen.

In the words of one city staffer, they would "share the pain." Seattle and King County would spend an additional $25 million to shore up the infrastructure fund.

But as far as Hansen's role, City Council staffers say the most crucial thing that changed was not his upfront contributions, but his personal guarantee to repay any public debt in case of shortfalls. After City Council review, the arena deal goes to the King County Council, which is expected to vote on it in the next two weeks.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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