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Seattle City Council Says 'Aye' To NBA Arena

Deborah Wang

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen thanked the Seattle City Council for approving his plan to build a new sports arena in the city's SODO neighborhood. He said that brings the arena "one step closer to reality." The Council voted 6–2 Monday to provide up to $200 million in bonds for the project. KUOW's Deborah Wang reports.


Sonics fans have been lobbying hard for this arena, and they were there in [Seattle] City Council chambers again Monday when the final roll call was taken.

Council Clerk: "And President Clark."

Clark: "Aye."

Council Clerk: "Six in favor, two opposed."

Clark: "The bill passes and the chair will sign."

The Council has been considering the plan for months. Mayor Mike McGinn and investor Chris Hansen announced it back in February.

At the time, City Councilmember Tim Burgess says he was skeptical. He didn't think it gave enough financial protections to the city.

But over the last couple of months, Burgess and other councilmembers have been negotiating with Hansen to improve the terms of the deal. Under the new agreement, Hansen will now personally guarantee repayment of the bonds. And $40 million in arena revenues will go to pay for transportation improvements in the SODO neighborhood. That was important to the Port of Seattle, which is concerned that arena traffic will disrupt its operations.

Tim Burgess says the negotiations haven't been easy, but the agreement will give the city something it can be proud of.

Burgess: "This is a decision, while difficult, is the kind of decision I see the people of Seattle wanting to make. Looking forward, not back. Taking advantage of opportunity. Yes, there is some risk involved, but when have we ever done anything that is significant that didn't have any risk?"

Two councilmembers voted no on the agreement. Richard Conlin and Nick Licata say they oppose using public funds for private sports ventures.

The agreement now goes back to the King County Council for approval. But construction on the arena won't begin until a full environmental impact statement is produced, and until the arena investors buy a basketball team.

I'm Deborah Wang, KUOW News.

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