Chris Hansen and his investment group are seeking additional steps toward a new Sodo arena, including the elimination of a previous agreement.
Despite a setback in May, Hansen has continued to pursue his effort for a new arena in the Sodo section of Seattle that could accommodate both an NBA and NHL franchise. Along with acquiring additional properties in the area, Hansen has announced plans to privately finance the arena, and added Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to his list of partners.
One of the key aspects of a privately-financed arena is that it could negate a previous agreement. Under the terms of a prior memorandum of understanding (MOU), the City of Seattle and King County would contribute up to $200 million in public funds to the project, under the condition that Hansen secured a team for the arena by next November.
It is unlikely that Hansen can land a team within that time frame, but the use of private funds would eliminate the need for the public commitment. In a letter to both Seattle and King County officials, Hansen is asking that the MOU be scrapped, while also requesting that officials reconsider a controversial proposal to vacate one block of Occidential Avenue South. More from King 5:
The letter also states their request to tear up the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the SoDo arena, and “restore $200 million in debt capacity to the City and County” in exchange for the vacation. The group had previously offered to privately finance the new sports arena. It also claims the “sales tax revenue generated by the Arena which would have been devoted to debt service for the Arena bonds would now accrue to the city and county general funds.”
The offer, laid out in the letter, indicates the group will refile their petition for a one-block vacation of Occidental soon, and “the revised petition will include new elements to help address freight mobility concerns. We also support the council’s proposal to devote the payment we would make for the vacated street to the Lander Overpass project to help close the project’s remaining funding gap.”
The group reiterated they are seeking a waiver of the city’s admissions tax, and “This reflects similar treatment for CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field, which are exempt from the tax; those revenues are instead dedicated to payment for those facilities. We would also like to explore an adjustment to the City’s Business and Occupation Tax for national broadcast media.” The group also says the scheduling agreement with the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders remains in place.
The letter goes on to state that by eliminating the MOU, “(the) sole reliance on private financing removes the “NBA first” element of the MOU and allows us to engage more directly with the NHL.”
When the Seattle City Council rejected Hansen’s proposal by a 5-4 vote in May, the vacation of Occidential Avenue South was one of the primary issues. Councilmembers expressed concern that the elimination of that section of the street would lead to increased traffic congestion, and affect Port of Seattle operations.
Seattle officials are also considering a plan to renovate Key Arena, the former home of the Seattle Supersonics. If that plan were to move forward, Key Arena could be overhauled in a way that allows it to host both NBA and NHL action.
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